Juvenile prosecution

The Juvenile Prosecution Division prosecutes all levels of offenses, ranging from serious traffic offenses to homicides. Attorneys specialize in the areas of domestic abuse and criminal sexual conduct prosecutions.

Prosecutors seek to maintain public safety through sanctions and juvenile programming that are appropriate for the young person and the circumstances of the offense.

Violent juvenile offenders are aggressively prosecuted. Many less serious offenses, including first time lower level offenders, are diverted through Headway and other community agencies to avoid formal charging and prosecution if possible.

Anyone who commits a crime when he or she is between the ages of 10 and 17 is considered a juvenile offender. With a few exceptions for especially violent crimes, most juvenile cases remain in the juvenile court. Younger children are referred to the child welfare system.

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Any youth who commits a crime when he or she is between the ages of 10 and 17 is under the jurisdiction of juvenile court. Children under 10 cannot commit crime under Minnesota law and any incidents are handled by the child welfare system.

The philosophy of juvenile court is to rehabilitate the youth and return him or her to law-abiding behavior. The intent is to give young people who make a mistake the opportunity to turn their lives around.

The juvenile court judge may order a range of programming, such as counseling, chemical dependency treatment and other options as part of the case disposition (the juvenile court term for a sentence). The disposition may also include sanctions to deter the youth from repeating the criminal behavior with the goal of rehabilitation and maintaining public safety.

This philosophy extends to limiting the amount of information available to the public about juvenile court cases.

In juvenile court, a defendant is adjudicated delinquent rather than found guilty of a crime.

If adjudicated delinquent, the focus is of the disposition is on rehabilitating the child and returning him or her to law abiding behavior. In juvenile court, there is a disposition rather than a sentence.

Juvenile prosecutors understand the programming and treatment options available to juveniles and seek dispositions that focus on maintaining public safety through appropriate sanctions and interventions.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, a judge has the ability to order a very broad range of consequences and programming such as:

  • Probation supervision
  • Restitution
  • Community service (also referred to as sentencing to service or STS)
  • Counseling
  • Home detention
  • Chemical dependency treatment
  • Loss of driver’s license
  • Placement at a residential juvenile correctional facility or the state juvenile correctional facility in Red Wing

This philosophy is different from adult court where there is a greater focus at sentencing on what the punishment should be for a specific criminal act.

When an offense is particularly serious or violent, a juvenile may be certified as an adult and tried in adult criminal court.

This juvenile must be at least 14 years old, charged with a felony and be a violent or chronic offender. A 16 or 17 year-old charged with first degree murder is automatically tried as an adult.

Under these circumstances, the prosecutor can file motions for adult certification or Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile (often referred to as EJJ). EJJ allows the court to keep the juvenile in juvenile court until he or she is 21. If the juvenile violates his or her EJJ probation, an adult sentence can be imposed.

The judge makes the decision to certify as an adult or handle as EJJ based on whether public safety can be served by keeping the child in juvenile court.

Juvenile prosecutors continue to handle the case in adult court is the juvenile is certified.

Information about cases in juvenile court is limited. Most juvenile charges and court proceedings are not public.

There are some significant exceptions. Records and court proceedings are public only if the juvenile is charged with a felony and was 16 or older at the time of the crime.

Victims have a right to receive notice of charges, court proceedings, plea negotiations and dispositions.

In Hennepin County, there is a curfew for anyone under 18. The curfew was designed to protect children and teens because statistics show that a significant amount of crime involving juveniles—both as victims as offenders—happens late at night.

Age Sunday-Thursday Friday and Saturday
Under 12 Home by 9 p.m. Home by 10 p.m.
12 to 14 Home by 10 p.m. Home by 11 p.m.
15 to 17 Home by 11 p.m. Home by midnight

There are exceptions for employment, school, religious observances, sponsored recreational activities, emergencies, errands at the direction of a parent or guardian, and engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.

The law applies if the child is any public place after these hours including walking, biking, and driving a vehicle.

Find out more about curfew rules and the ordinance.

Juvenile diversion helps eligible young people who have been cited or arrested for an offense to avoid a charge and a juvenile court record.

Young people who have little or no juvenile history and have committed a lower level offense are eligible.

Instead of going to court, the parent or guardian and offender attend a diversion intake meeting, complete an assessment, and sign a diversion contract. If the youth follows the conditions of that contract, there will be no charge and no juvenile court record. If the youth chooses not to participate or does not follow the conditions of the diversion contract, the case will be charged and brought to juvenile court.

The Minnesota Crime Victims Act applies to victims of both juvenile and adult crime. Victims have a right to receive notice of charges, court proceedings, plea negotiations and dispositions. The victim has a right to attend hearings and give a victim impact statement. The victim has a right to receive restitution as part of a juvenile court disposition.

The victims services division has staff who specialize in working on juvenile cases and within the juvenile justice system.

Learn more about how victim advocates can help you during the prosecution process.

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