In response to concerns about the effectiveness and fairness of the practices and procedures currently used in the country’s juvenile criminal justice system, state legislatures across the nation are considering major reforms. One of the states that is leading the charge is Illinois, where legislators recently passed a series of important amendments aimed at protecting the rights of minors charged with crimes and improving juvenile defense. The new laws are slated to go into effect on January 1, 2017.
Right to Representation
Like adults who have been arrested for committing a crime, juvenile offenders are also entitled to a recitation of their Miranda rights when they are arrested. However, recent research provides compelling evidence that most youths detained by law enforcement do not understand what the Miranda warnings mean. In efforts to combat the resulting incidences of youths giving false confessions and failing to take advantage of their right to an attorney, the Illinois Legislature recently enacted Senate Bill 2370. This law requires that all juveniles under the age of 15 who are being investigated for committing certain crimes, including sexual assault, murder, or the infliction of bodily harm have access to an attorney throughout all custodial interrogations.
According to the new law, an electronic recording of all custodial interrogations of suspects under the age of 18 must also be made, whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor. The recording must also be substantially accurate and not intentionally altered to be admissible in court. Additionally, any oral, written, or sign language statement made by a minor will be considered inadmissible if prior to the statement, a law enforcement officer did not explain to the detainee that:
- The right to remain silent means that he or she does not have to say anything;
- Anything he or she says can be used in court;
- He or she has the right to get help from a lawyer;
- If he or she cannot afford a lawyer, the court will get one for free;
- He or she can ask for an attorney at any time; and
- He or she has the right to stop the interview at any time.
After reading this statement, the public official must ask the minor whether he or she:
- Wants a lawyer; and
- Wants to talk to the police.
It is important to note, however, that the law will not apply to non-custodial interrogations or when a suspect is not officially under arrest.
The governor of Illinois also recently signed Senate Bill 5017 into law, which makes it easier for juvenile offenders to have their records expunged. According to the new law, a minor who was arrested, charged, or adjudicated delinquent for committing a criminal offense can begin the process of petitioning the court for expungement of his or her record at any time. Furthermore, when juvenile court proceedings are terminated, courts are required to order the expungement of all records related to the incident if the minor was:
- Arrested and no petition for delinquency was filed with the court;
- Charged with an offense and the petition was dismissed;
- Charged with an offense and found not guilty;
- Placed under supervision that has since been terminated; or
- Adjudicated for an offense that if committed by an adult would be classified as a Class B or Class C misdemeanor or a petty offense.
Contact an Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney
These new laws represent the increasingly widespread trend of reforming the juvenile justice system in America. Unfortunately, Georgia is still in the process of making similar changes, so if your child was recently charged with a crime, please contact Ford Law at 404-373-9881 to schedule an initial consultation with a dedicated juvenile defense attorney who can help protect his or her interests.