Processing a juvenile case: a brief guide for the citizen
This page briefly explains how a juvenile case is processed. Not every case will go to trial, so not all of the steps will be followed in every case. If you have specific questions, contact the prosecuting attorney's office for more information.

(1) Charges Filed

A juvenile case can start from a police ticket, but usually starts with a petition. A petition must be authorized by the prosecutor. These documents are filed with the juvenile court.

(2) Arraignment

Once arrested, the juvenile appears in juvenile court for a preliminary hearing. The juvenile is told the charges against him or her, and advised of their constitutional rights. The conditions and amount of bail are determined. If the juvenile pleads guilty, the court will schedule the case for disposition. If the juvenile pleads not guilty, the case will be set for trial.

(3) Preadjudication Proceedings (Pretrial)

Many events can occur prior to adjudication (trial). The court may hear motions to determine whether evidence can be used at trial, or whether there is some legal reason why the juvenile should not be tried. The prosecutor and defense attorney will often need to determine whether the juvenile will plead guilty to the information charged or some other charge.

(4) Diversion

The court has the sole authority to divert the juvenile's case out of the court. Diversion ends the case without a finding of guilt. A juvenile is sometimes places under supervision when diverted.

(5) Waiver

A 15 or 16 year old juvenile charged with a felony may be waived out of juvenile court for trial in adult court. The prosecutor decides whether to request waiver. The court conducts a hearing to determine whether it would be in the best interest of the public and juvenile for him or her to be tried in adult court. If the court decides the juvenile should be tried in adult court, the case is waived (transferred) to circuit court where upon conviction, the juvenile can be sentenced to jail or prison.

(6) Adjudication (Trial)

The trial can be by judge or jury. During the trial, the judge or a jury will determine whether the juvenile has committed a crime, an if so, what that crime is. At trial, the prosecution must present evidence to prove the juvenile's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The juvenile is not required to prove his or her innocence, or to present any evidence.

(7) Disposition (Sentencing)

If the juvenile is found guilty, the judge will set a date for disposition. A disposition report may be prepared by the probation office. It contains information about the crime, juvenile's background, and a sentence recommendation. At sentencing, the judge will consider the information in the report. Determination of the sentence is the judge's sole responsibility. The judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, community service, a sentence to the Department of Social Services (DSS), or a combination. The judge may also order the juvenile or the juvenile's parents to make restitution to any victims who have suffered physical or financial harm.

(8) Appeals

The juvenile may appeal his or her conviction to the Circuit Court. It is also possible that he or she may appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, or the United States Supreme Court.

(9) Expungement

Juveniles who have only one conviction can ask the court to expunge, or set aside their conviction, upon a showing that they are now good citizens. If expunged, the juvenile's conviction record is no longer public.