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Complete Guide to Juvenile Criminal Justice in Northern Michigan

At True North Legal Group, we believe in the transformative power of legal advocacy in overcoming barriers and achieving success. For juvenile defendants facing criminal charges in Northern Michigan, it is essential to have the right legal representation to successfully navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system. We aim to help you understand and effectively manage the challenges of your case, ensuring a brighter future.


Understanding the Juvenile Justice System in Michigan

Michigan’s juvenile justice system is distinct from the adult system, with a focus on rehabilitating young offenders rather than solely punishing them. The system typically involves individuals under the age of 17, although, in certain circumstances, 17-year-olds may also be treated as juveniles.


The Initial Steps

The process often begins with an intake assessment conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), determining whether the juvenile’s case requires formal court handling or can be addressed through informal measures like counseling or community service. Serious offenses or those involving repeat offenders are more likely to proceed to formal court processing.


The Court Process for Juvenile Offenders

  • Charges: A juvenile case can start with a police ticket or, more commonly, a criminal petition that must be authorized by the prosecutor and then filed with the juvenile court.

  • Arraignment: The juvenile may be arrested or ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing, where they are informed of the charges, their rights, and possibly, the terms of bail if custody is retained pending trial.

  • Pre-adjudication/Pretrial Proceedings: This phase involves motion hearings and negotiations between the prosecutor and defense attorney, aiming for a plea deal or other resolution to avoid trial.

  • Diversion: The court may divert juveniles from formal proceedings to engage in programs focusing on rehabilitation, thus addressing the underlying causes of their behavior.

  • Trial: If no resolution is reached, the case goes to trial where both parties present evidence and witnesses. The outcome hinges on whether the prosecution can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Disposition/Sentencing: If found guilty, sentencing follows where the court considers a disposition report alongside mitigating factors presented by the defense to decide on appropriate sanctions.

  • Appeal: Juveniles have the right to appeal convictions, potentially up to the Supreme Court.

  • Expungement: Juveniles with a single conviction can later seek to have their records expunged to eliminate public access to their criminal history.


Critical Factors in a Successful Defense Strategy

  1. Understanding the Unique Needs of Juvenile Clients: It’s crucial to understand the developmental, psychological, and social factors influencing juvenile behavior. Effective advocacy depends on building a strong rapport with the client.

  2. Exploring Diversionary Options: Leveraging diversion programs can prevent the detrimental effects of a criminal record and provide opportunities for rehabilitation.

  3. Challenging Evidence and Protecting Rights: Juvenile defendants are entitled to due process, which includes the right to challenge evidence and confront witnesses.

  4. Identifying Mitigating Evidence: Presenting mitigating factors such as age, family circumstances, and remorse can significantly impact the court’s decisions.


Navigating the juvenile criminal justice system in Michigan demands a nuanced understanding of legal procedures and the unique needs of young defendants. By employing a comprehensive defense strategy that focuses on rehabilitation, exploring diversionary options, and safeguarding the rights of juvenile clients,

True North Legal Group aims to achieve favorable outcomes that foster long-term well-being and successful reintegration into society. This guide offers a thorough exploration of the juvenile criminal justice process, ensuring that all stakeholders are well-informed and prepared for the challenges ahead.