The Categories of Juvenile Offenders
The Juvenile Justice System covers children under the age of 18 in Minnesota. Unlike adult courts, juvenile proceedings are civil proceedings so that the child is protected from the consequences of his or her own conduct. The goal of the Juvenile Justice System is to help children develop responsibility for their unlawful behavior and rehabilitate them. The state statute that addresses this is Minnesota Statute § 260B.001, subd. 2.
Depending on the nature of the crime, a juvenile offender will fall into one of the following categories:
- Delinquents: a delinquent refers to anyone under the age of 18 who commits an act that would be unlawful if it were committed by an adult. However, according to Minnesota Statute § 260B.007, subd. 6, this category excludes certain designated offenses and all petty offenses. A delinquent is entitled to effective assistance of counsel at a delinquency hearing. If a child under the age of 10 commits such an act, the case will be handled through a civil CHIPS (children in need of protection or services) hearing.
- Petty Offenders: a petty offender is a child who violates a traffic law. According to Minnesota Statute § 260B.225, depending on the age of the child and nature of the offense, some of these traffic matters will be handled by an adult court. A DWI or related nonfelony offense is handled in adult court.
- Juveniles Certified to Adult Court: if a child over the age of 14 is accused of a dangerous offense and/or has been involved in crime in the past, the court can decide to handle the charge in adult court. For this to happen, a juvenile court judge must first find probable cause to believe that the child committed a felony-level offense and determine that public safety is not served by handing the case in juvenile court. Then, the prosecutor must motion the court to certify the alleged delinquent to adult court for criminal prosecution. If the delinquent is certified as an adult, he or she will be treated like an adult defendant.
- Extended Jurisdiction Juveniles: if a child over the age of 14 commits a felony-level offense, the court can treat them as a delinquent but still certify them in adult criminal court. Under Minnesota Statute § 260B.130, a judge can give a child both a juvenile court sentence and a stayed adult court sentence. This means that if the juvenile fails to satisfy the conditions of their juvenile sentence, the court could impose the adult sentence and the juvenile could be sent to adult prison. Any child who is treated as an adult has a right to a jury trial.
- 16+ Accused of First-Degree Murder: under Minnesota Statute § 609.055, a child age 16 or older who is charged with committing first-degree murder can be convicted in adult court without first having to go through the juvenile court’s certification process.