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Attorney Renee C. Walsh

Waiver of Jurisdiction in Juvenile Court – Don’t be Tried as an Adult

A prosecutor in a juvenile criminal matter, may motion the juvenile court to waive jurisdiction over a juvenile age 14, 15, or 16, thereby handing jurisdiction over to the circuit court of general jurisdiction. The juvenile court then finds whether waiver of jurisdiction is appropriate.  This may happen in a case in which the teen was over the age of 14 when charged, and the charged offenses amount to felonies if committed by an adult.

Procedure:  The procedure is set forth in MCL 712A.4. Before the court waives jurisdiction, the court must have a two-phase hearing: First, a probable cause hearing – must determine on the record if there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed that if committed by an adult would be a felony and if there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the offense. Upon a showing of probable cause, the court then conducts a hearing to determine if the best interests of the juvenile and the public would be served by granting a waiver of jurisdiction to the court of general criminal jurisdiction.

Considerations:  The court has to consider all of the following factors giving greater weight to the seriousness of the alleged offense and the juvenile’s prior record of delinquency than to the other criteria:

(a) The seriousness of the alleged offense in terms of community protection, including, but not limited to, the existence of any aggravating factors recognized by the sentencing guidelines, the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, and the impact on any victim.

(b) The culpability of the juvenile in committing the alleged offense, including, but not limited to, the level of the juvenile’s participation in planning and carrying out the offense and the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors recognized by the sentencing guidelines.

(c) The juvenile’s prior record of delinquency including, but not limited to, any record of detention, any police record, any school record, or any other evidence indicating prior delinquent behavior.

(d) The juvenile’s programming history, including, but not limited to, the juvenile’s past willingness to participate meaningfully in available programming.

(e) The adequacy of the punishment or programming available in the juvenile justice system.

(f) The dispositional options available for the juvenile.

Caution!  Juveniles do not want the waiver to go through because they will be processed as an adult and there is a good chance they will spend a lot more time incarcerated. The court will waive jurisdiction if there is substantial evidence and a thorough investigation showing that the juvenile is ‘not amenable to treatment, or, that despite his potential for treatment, the nature of his difficulty is likely to render him dangerous to the public if he were to be released at the age of nineteen or twenty-one.

If you are a juvenile and become involved in the juvenile justice system, do what you can to get through respectfully – participate willingly and meaningfully in all available “programming”. Take an active part in the process. Try to contribute. You may be able to turn your life around – make connections, possibly a reference or two. At a minimum, if you get into future trouble, you are less likely to be waiver over.

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