Busting the Myths of Juvenile Crime
Busting the Myths of Juvenile Crime
By Martin LaScola
Summertime is the time when our children and young adults have a little more time on their hands and as the saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s playground, which can translate to juvenile arrest. Young people can accidentally find themselves on the wrong side of the law quite easily if they don’t understand the consequences. Statistics from the Chicago Youth Justice Data Project show that of the 17,000+ juvenile arrests made in 2014, the majority of them were for misdemeanor offenses, with the top three charges being miscellaneous non-index offenses (ex. Disturbing the peace, trespassing, underage tobacco sales, sex offender violations, etc.), drug abuse violations and simple battery (unarmed without major injury).
Here are some of the myths your child may believe about getting into legal trouble, and the important information they should know before they make a bad mistake.
Juvenile Crime Myth #1:
I have to have actual drugs on me to get into serious trouble. Drug-related offenses and the accompanying laws are rather strict in Illinois. Possession of any controlled substance is charged as a felony. Even possession of prescription narcotics will be charged as a felony if the accused does not possess a valid prescription from a licensed physician. Usage of any drug cannot be prosecuted because once the substance is in your system, the possession of it cannot be proven anymore. However, possession of drug paraphanelia, while a misdemeanor, carries a staggering mandatory minimum fine of $750. If a prosecutor can show that the item had been used, has residue or can only be used for one purpose, the fine is set.
Juvenile Crime Myth #2:
Retail theft may be charged as a misdemeanor. On a dare or maybe just to test boundaries, young people may experiment with simple shoplifting. Such a charge is a Class A misdemeanor but rises to the level of felony if the value of the stolen merchandise is $300 or more. This charge may also be brought under the various local village ordinances if the officer opts to charge the offense in this manner.
Juvenile Crime Myth #3:
I can’t lose my license for underage drinking unless I’m driving. This is a common perception of young people. However, if you are drinking at a party and the police are called and you are cited for unlawful possession, it may be reported to the Secretary of State by the Clerk of the Circuit Court and can result in the suspension of your driving privileges—just for being there.
Juvenile Crime Myth #4:
I have to be 18 to be charged as an adult. The cut-off for being prosecuted as an adult in Illinois is 16. Once you are 17, you may be charged as an adult under Illinois law.
Juvenile Crime Myth #5:
If I have a drink and then make the mistake of driving, the penalty will be lesser because I am not an adult. Under the State of Illinois Vehicle Code, even if you are only 15 or 16 but drive while under the influence, your case will be heard in adult court. All violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code remain in adult court, even for those motorists under the age of 17.
Juvenile Crime Myth #6:
If I am caught doing something illegal, I will just get a “slap on the wrist” because I am a minor. Not at all. Police officers often have a great deal of discretion when it comes to minors. A minor’s behavior, past and present, in the presence of the police officer, can contribute to whether or not they receive a warning, a citation, an arrest or a hefty fine. Has the minor been warned before? What is the minor’s attitude towards authority? Have they been cooperative in the past? The better the history of the minor, the more likely they will get off with a warning. However, the opposite is just as true if the minor speaks disrespectfully or gives the policeman a hard time. That is not to say the minor cannot question the policeman if they feel a mistake has been made or they are not within their rights. However, they need to do so with the right attitude and with respect.
Juvenile Crime Myth #7:
If I get in trouble with the police, it is on my permanent record forever. Other than fines, misdemeanor charges often require some kind of education class (traffic school, alcohol or drug abuse education) or community service in lieu of detention or jail time. In these cases, after the return to court, the case is usually dismissed. However, if the minor is arrested in the future, the prior arrest will be on their record, unless they get it expunged. An attorney can help you expunge a file 160 days after the arrest. The 160-day period is the statutory period allowing a prosecutor to reinstate the case if there is a valid reason to do so.
Juvenile Crime Myth #8:
Every cop is out to get me…or every cop will be on my side. Neither is true 100 percent of the time, and neither is false. The truth is, cops are human. There are “good cops” and “bad cops” as well as cops you catch on a good day or a bad day. It’s important for not just our children but everyone to understand that we have rights that can be violated during an arrest, so it’s important to always look out for ourselves. And when we need help with that, it’s time to call a qualified attorney.
When your child or you yourself need help filing a lawsuit or are in need of an attorney to defend against criminal charges, the experienced team at Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD is waiting to represent you.