Chicago Drug Crime Attorneys for Minors
Minors, just like adults, who are arrested for possession of an illegal drug in Illinois may face serious criminal charges. Was your child arrested for drug possession? Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC stands ready to help you get your child's charges reduced or dismissed whenever possible under the circumstances.
Contact the Chicago juvenile crime attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC by calling (800) 996-4824 today. We’ll set up a confidential consultation where you can learn about your child’s rights and legal options.
What is Drug Possession?
To be found guilty in court for possession of an illegal drug, there must be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the minor knew of the illegal substance in their possession and that he/she had control over it. What exactly is control? Generally, when an item is in someone’s pocket, it’s incredibly likely that the minor knew that the item was in their pocket. But not always. It’s certainly possible that they were wearing another person’s jacket or that someone slipped the item into their pocket.
Of course, getting a judge to believe that someone didn’t know what was in their own pocket is another thing entirely. It may be true, but for obvious reasons, it may be hard to get others to believe it. However, consider the very common circumstance when the drugs are not in the person’s pocket, but somewhere close by. Drugs may be in the car on the floor near the minor or in the trunk or in the backseat. Or the minor may be outside with the illegal drugs found very close nearby in some bushes. In circumstances such as these, an experienced attorney may have a much better chance of convincing a judge that the minor knew nothing of the drugs and that they were the property of another person.
Most people understand that the possession of illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or LSD is very serious and may result in an arrest. But many juveniles, as well adults, may not fully understand that possession of a prescription medication can also spell equal amounts of trouble. If a child is caught with a prescription for a drug prescribed to someone else, they will likely face charges as well. That’s because drug possession, or as it’s more accurately called in Illinois, possession of a controlled substance, relates to any drug that is “controlled” by the government and subject to manufacturing guidelines. Examples of this also include Adderall and Hydrocodone.
Illinois Laws for Juvenile Crimes
Whether a minor is charged as a juvenile offender in Illinois is not a simple as determining whether the person is under the age of 18 or not. When a minor violates or attempts to violate laws or ordinances set by cities such as Chicago or anywhere within the state of Illinois court system, the law first requires a determination of whether the case is a felony or misdemeanor first:
- If the minor is charged with a misdemeanor and is 17 years old or younger at the time of the offense, then he/she will be treated as a juvenile
- If the minor is charged with a felony and is 16 years old or younger at the time of the offense, then he/she will be treated as a juvenile
Those minors found guilty of drug possession could face a range of penalties depending on the severity of the crime and whether prior offenses exist.
The juvenile justice system in Illinois aims to hold minors responsible for their actions and rehabilitate them. The laws also allow accused juveniles the opportunity to participate in programs to assist them in becoming productive members of society.
The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice oversees all cases involving offenders under 18 years old. The Juvenile Drug Court Treatment Act (705 ILCS 410/1) was established in January of 2003 and sets forth the process by which the pre-adjudicatory drug court program operates to help juveniles seek substance abuse treatment.
Dos and Don'ts After Your Child Gets Arrested
Many children fail to make good judgment calls and often lack adequate decision-making skills while their brain develops. Some get involved with the wrong crowd or choose to follow a dangerous path. Others make honest mistakes that get them in legal trouble.
If your child has been arrested for the first time, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed. You mustn't allow your emotions to cloud your judgment. What you do next is important. Here are some suggestions:
- Don't make assumptions about bail. Minors don’t have a right to bail like adults accused of committing a drug crime or any other crime. The judge is allowed to use his/her discretion when determining whether to hold your child in custody. If the minor is charged as an adult, then the minor will have a right to have bail set.
- Don't cause a scene with an officer. People in law enforcement must do their job and arrest those who they believe are guilty of breaking the law. It’s important to show them respect, or you risk making the problem worse.
- Don't assume your child is innocent. Parents often choose to believe that their child could never intentionally do something that would lead to their arrest. While it’s possible that the arresting officer made a mistake, it’s also possible your child did commit an offense. Be open-minded and look carefully at the circumstances.
- Do understand your child’s rights. Be aware that your child has the right to have you present when charged as a juvenile and to hire an attorney in their defense.
- Try to remain calm. It’s a stressful situation to deal with but try not to make any rash decisions or you may make matters worse for your child. Maintaining a respectful and professional demeanor during the arrest, questioning, and in court can help your child’s case.
- Ask for support. Fighting a drug charge is a significant time commitment that can take you away from your job and other obligations. You will need to lean on friends and family throughout your child’s case.
- Speak with an attorney. It’s important to seek legal representation. You may not understand your child’s rights or the steps you need to take to get their charges reduced or dropped. Having an experienced attorney from Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC by your side will make the process easier for you and your child.
My Child Was Just Arrested. What Will Happen Next?
After a juvenile gets taken into custody, the arresting officer must find someone trained in handling juvenile arrestees. That officer can choose to formally charge your child or send them to a diversion program.
With a diversion program, the minor gets released into their parent’s custody and must comply with various requirements. They might have to obey a curfew, refrain from associating with known gang members, undergo drug counseling, and comply with such requirements over a period of time.
There are two different diversion programs available according to (705 ILCS 405/5-301): formal adjustment and informal adjustment. Formal adjustment programs require the accused juvenile to admit to the crime. Informal adjustment programs don’t typically require an admission of guilt.
Illinois law allows those under 18 years of age to participate in no more than three informal adjustment programs for felonies and no more than three for misdemeanors. Within three years, there’s a maximum of five informal adjustments allowed.
If the officer decides to press formal charges against the minor offender, the minor will need to undergo a screening to determine whether detention or release to the parents is the better option. Within a short time of the arrest, the child will attend a detention hearing where the judge will decide whether to release them or keep them in detention.
What to Expect If Your Child is Charged for a Drug Crime
If law enforcement decides to charge your child for a drug-related crime, the case will typically be reviewed by the state’s attorney for a determination. In conjunction with the police, they will decide whether to proceed with a formal or informal charge. The state’s attorney may decide to file a delinquency petition in order to move the case to juvenile court for a formal charge. On the other hand, if there’s an informal charge, the case will get dismissed once the offender complies with certain conditions over a set timeframe.
Just like in a trial for an adult, a minor has the right to plead guilty or not guilty. If substantial evidence against them exists, it’s possible to enter a plea agreement to avoid a trial and place sentencing in the judge’s hands. But a bench trial is always an option and allows both sides to argue their case, then leave it up to the judge to make the final decision.
Drug Crime Penalties for a Minor in Illinois
The nature of the crime and the child’s age determines if your child gets treated as a juvenile or adult. Most drug-related crimes when treated as juvenile offenses result in less harsh punishments than those committed by adults. However, if bodily harm or death occurred, your son or daughter is more likely to face a felony charge. Some common penalties/requirements include:
Drug counseling. Juvenile courts focus on rehabilitating young people. Requiring attendance in drug counseling is commonly ordered for the child to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
Probation. A court-ordered probation sentence requires the minor to follow specific terms. An example is regular attendance in school and maintaining or finding a job if they’re old enough to seek employment. The court could also order your child to check in with a probation officer. Probation typically lasts for a minimum of six months.
Diversion. Somewhat similar to probation, except the minor doesn’t typically have to stand before a judge in juvenile court. There are particular rules to follow for a specified duration. After the successful completion of the diversion program, the charges will typically get dismissed.
Detention. Although not common, the court could order an accused juvenile into detention. Detention could include staying at home or getting sent to a juvenile detention center. First-time drug offenders usually don’t receive detention as punishment. For repeat offenders or those accused of drug possession associated with a violent crime or robbery, detention is more likely.
Contact Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC if Your Child Was Arrested or Charged with a Drug Crime
It’s often devastating when your son or daughter is accused of breaking the law and is facing serious consequences. You need help from a skilled attorney who will fight for your minor's rights. We will work hard to get the charges reduced or dropped entirely.
Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC will provide you with a free case evaluation to discuss the charges against your child and answer your questions. We’ll carefully examine the facts of your particular case and advise you about what we believe the best course of action should be. Call us at (800) 996-4824 today or contact us online to discuss your case.