Beginning January 1, 2016, fewer drunk driving juveniles will be automatically tried as adults in Illinois, thanks to a new law signed by Governor Bruce Rauner earlier this month. Proponents believe that the new measure is in line with similar systems in place in other states, and will help Illinois reduce the current law’s “disproportionate impact” on minority juveniles. While juveniles will still be permitted to be tried as adults, a large majority of cases will first require a hearing in juvenile court to determine the appropriateness of a transfer.
Need for Change
More than a century ago, Illinois was a pioneer in the fight against juvenile crime, establishing the nation’s first juvenile court system in Cook County in 1899. In recent decades, however, the “tough-on-crime” attitudes that had become prevalent across the county also took hold here at home. Prosecution became more intense and criminal penalties more severe, even for cases involving minors. Laws were created that allowed individuals as young as 15, and in some cases, even 13, to be automatically tried as adults for certain offenses. The focus on juvenile rehabilitation rather than punishment that led to the establishment of the juvenile court system seemed to have been blurred.
With the stroke of a pen, Governor Rauner completed Springfield’s attempt to restore that focus. The new law eliminates the automatic transfer new law eliminates the automatic transfer to adult court for all individuals under the age of 16, regardless of the specific criminal charges. For 16- and 17-year-olds, automatic transfer will only occur for the most serious crimes, including murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated battery with a firearm.
In all other juvenile crime cases, the defendant will be granted a hearing before a juvenile court judge to consider the necessity for a transfer. The judge is expected to take a number of factors into account, including the defendant’s background, mental capacity, and potential degree of fault. Based on the individual circumstances of the situation, the judge may elect to transfer the case to adult court, or to keep it in the juvenile system.
Legal Help for Juvenile Offenses
If your child has been charged with a crime, you need a lawyer who is committed to helping your family every step of the way. Jack L. Zaremba is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Joliet who fully understands the intricacies of the juvenile court system. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free consultation and put our team to work in protecting your child’s future.