Illinois Supreme Court to Hear Youth Crime Case

Illinois Supreme Court to Hear Youth Crime Case

When children commit terrible crimes, should they be punished for most or all of the rest of their lives? Is our criminal justice system providing what children need to rehabilitate and become useful members of society? How much prison time is too much for crimes committed at an age when brains and judgment are not fully developed?

In an attempt to deal with these issues, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear the case of Demetri Buffer, who received a 50-year prison sentence without parole for a crime he committed when he was 16. The plaintiff’s argument is that this sentence, 25 years for murder and 25 more years for the use of a firearm, violates federal or state constitutions since mandatory life sentences without the chance of parole for juvenile crimes is cruel and unusual punishment.

The appellate opinion in Buffer’s case highlighted the government’s failure to address changes needed to rehabilitate juvenile offenders like Buffer. The opinion states: “A juvenile (with or without gang affiliation) placed in an adult prison system will quite likely be forced to join a gang inside that prison system in order to survive. If, instead of cutting all the programs that could aid in rehabilitation, the legislature were to require that all juveniles serving adult sentences in adult prison were separated from adult inmates (and placed into mandatory education and/or work-training programs) and were further to impose a mandatory judicial review of a juvenile’s sentence for future consideration of parole after half of that sentence has been served, we believe that this would incentivize good behavior and better serve the purposes of rehabilitation and reinstatement into society.”

According to an Injustice Watch review, at least 167 juvenile offenders in Illinois prisons are serving sentences of 50 years or more. Since Illinois has strict sentencing guidelines and a lack of parole, many of these offenders will spend most of their lives or die in prison.

If your child has been accused of a crime, their life can be ruined forever. The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. understand the seriousness of the situation and offer aggressive representation for children facing criminal charges. We have been successful in helping other juveniles and will do everything possible to defend their rights and enable their rehabilitation.

We offer a free initial consultation for those accused of any criminal charges, so get legal help today by emailing or calling our offices.

What Illinois Law Says

Illinois considers offenders to be juveniles depending on the age and type of offense.  For a misdemeanor, the age is 17 or younger; for a felony, it is 16 or younger, at the time the offense was committed.

Children tried as juveniles still have to go to trial and be interrogated by police, and they will have a mark on their criminal record when applying for college and jobs. In some situations, a juvenile may be tried as an adult. This means that the case will take place as if it were an adult case, in the criminal courthouse of that county, with adult courtroom procedures and penalties.

Since 2017, there have been some changes to Illinois juvenile crime laws in areas that include:

  • Interrogation — Before 2017, children as young as 13 could be interrogated by the police without a lawyer present; now, all children under the age of 15 must have a lawyer present.
  • Probation –Previously for certain crimes, there was a mandatory five-year probation period for juveniles. Since 2017, the probationary period for many crimes except first-degree murder has been reduced.
  • Drug crimes — Illinois has reduced drug crimes sentences, including decriminalizing marijuana. Juveniles charged with Class 3 or Class 4 controlled substance crimes will not be sent to Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) facilities unless they have multiple probation violations.
  • Expungement – Those juveniles arrested for a crime before they turned 18 are able to expunge their records. While the public will not be able to see these records, law enforcement can still see an expunged record.

Incarceration for Juveniles in Illinois

After being charged, juveniles are either released to their parent or legal guardian or held in a secure facility to wait for their court case. Juveniles sentenced to incarceration may serve one of the following options:

  • House arrest
  • Removal from the home
  • Juvenile detention
  • Placement in a secured facility
  • Adult jail or prison.

Some counties in Illinois have a separate juvenile detention center for children 17 years and younger; others hold juveniles at the county jail. There must be a “sight and sound barrier” between juveniles and adults in a detention center, with additional requirements for facilities which provide long-term care for juveniles. In less serious cases, there are also non-incarceration options for juveniles, such as counseling, community service, fines and electronic monitoring.

Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Center for Sex Offender Management, Illinois is one of 20 states that still puts juveniles on sex offender registries. This can hinder rehabilitation efforts and have significant, long-term negative consequences for young perpetrators who are statistically unlikely to re-offend.

Contact Us to Defend Young People Facing Criminal Charges in Illinois

Even with changing attitudes toward juvenile rehabilitation, your child’s future can still be harmed by a juvenile offense. If you have a young family member charged with a crime, you should take immediate action to give the child a chance to learn, change, rehabilitate, and have a decent future.

The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each juvenile case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We know the courts and the juvenile justice system, and how to plea bargain, negotiate guidelines and recognize when to take a case to trial.

We gather information quickly and look at all viable defense options to make a decision about the best legal strategy.  If we cannot get the charges dropped, we will work to minimize the negative impact of a youthful mistake, seeking alternative sentence programs such as good behavior programs, drug and traffic school, jail tours, and dismissible or intense probation.  We seek to make sure your case is not moved into adult court and to protect juvenile offenders from harsh sentencing.

Don’t delay – call or email us today for a free initial consultation.