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Last Updated on: 1st October 2023, 08:22 am
What to Do if Your Child is Charged with Assault in Chicago
Getting that call or visit from the police that your child has been arrested and charged with assault can be incredibly scary and stressful for any parent. As you try to wrap your head around what happened and what comes next, it’s important to stay calm, get informed, and start planning your next steps. This article will walk you through the basics of how juvenile assault charges work in Illinois, your child’s rights, potential penalties, and most importantly, what you as a parent can do to support your kid through this difficult process.
Understanding Juvenile Assault Charges in Illinois
In Illinois, assault charges can cover everything from threats of violence to physical attacks causing injury. If your child is under 18, their case will be handled in juvenile court rather than the adult system. The specific charges and potential penalties depend on:
- The circumstances of the alleged assault
- Your child’s age
- Any prior history in the juvenile justice system
Some common juvenile assault charges in Illinois include:
- Simple assault – Threatening violence without physical contact
- Battery – Physical attack or fighting causing injury
- Aggravated assault/battery – Assault involving a weapon or severe injury
Illinois has also enacted various laws to crack down on youth violence, so charges related to gang activity, fights at school, or attacks on teachers or staff may carry enhanced penalties.
Your Child’s Rights in the Juvenile Justice System
Regardless of the specific charges, your child has certain basic rights in the juvenile justice system in Illinois:
- The right to have charges explained clearly and in detail
- The right to deny charges and require the state prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt
- The right to obtain legal counsel or have counsel appointed if you cannot afford representation
- The right to remain silent – any statements may be used against them
- The right to a speedy trial within 120 days of charges being filed
- The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses
- The right to present evidence and call witnesses in their defense
Make sure your child understands their rights. Do not allow them to speak to police or prosecutors without an attorney present. What they say, even informally, could come back to haunt them later.
Potential Penalties for Juvenile Assault in Illinois
If your child is adjudicated delinquent (the equivalent of being found guilty in adult court) of assault, the potential consequences include:
- Probation – Between 6 months and 5 years of court-ordered monitoring, usually involving curfews, school attendance, counseling, community service, etc.
- Restitution – Your child may be ordered to pay damages to compensate any victims.
- Fines – Up to $1,000 per offense.
- Detention – Up to 30 days in a juvenile detention facility, often used for probation violations.
- Commitment – For serious offenses, judges can commit youth to juvenile corrections facilities until the age of 21.
Judges have significant discretion in sentencing. Aggravating factors like use of a weapon, gang activity, or prior record may increase penalties. Mitigating factors like self-defense, lack of intent, or no prior history may persuade the judge to be more lenient.
Diversion programs are also available in some cases to avoid formal adjudication. But for serious assaults involving weapons, gangs, or serious injury, prosecutors often push for stiff penalties.
As a Parent, Your Role is Crucial
While your child made a serious mistake, they still need your love and support as they navigate the juvenile justice system. Here are some steps you can take:
- Remain calm – Your child is scared too. Reassure them you are on their side.
- Say little about the incident – Don’t interrogate. Focus on getting a lawyer.
- Find legal counsel – Hire a juvenile defense attorney experienced in assault cases.
- Learn the process – Work with the lawyer to understand court dates, procedures, options.
- Attend all hearings – Show the judge you take the charges seriously.
- Develop a defense strategy – Explore ways to get charges reduced or dismissed.
- Don’t ignore problems – Be honest if substance abuse, mental health issues, or peer pressure played a role. Use the experience to get your child needed help.
- Keep your child engaged – Maintain family time, social activities, school attendance. Avoid isolation.
- Be a monitor and mentor – Closely supervise conduct, connect positively, reward progress.
- Accept consequences – If found guilty, your child must face penalties. Support their rehabilitation.
With an experienced juvenile defense lawyer guiding you, you can develop the best strategy to mitigate penalties and get your child’s life back on track. This painful incident may ultimately help turn them into a responsible young adult.
Finding the Right Juvenile Defense Lawyer
Don’t go it alone. Finding the right lawyer is crucial to defending your child against assault charges and achieving the best possible outcome. Look for an attorney who:
- Focuses exclusively on juvenile defense cases
- Has extensive experience specifically with juvenile assault charges
- Is familiar with local prosecutors, judges, and diversion programs
- Will fight aggressively in court but also pursue diversion options
- Makes you and your child comfortable during consultations and inspired about their capabilities
- Clearly explains the process, possible penalties, and defense strategy
- Is responsive and available to answer questions throughout the case
Be ready to honestly discuss your child’s background, mental health, school issues, and family situation. This allows the lawyer to build the strongest defense. Costs vary but expect to invest $2,000 – $5,000 or more for competent representation. Public defenders are an option but typically juggle heavy caseloads. Don’t let money prevent you from hiring the best lawyer you can.
Using the Juvenile Justice Process to Help Your Child
Beyond just avoiding stiff penalties, the juvenile justice process can provide important opportunities to identify and address issues contributing to your child’s behavior problems. Possibilities include:
- Mental health evaluation – If conditions like depression or ADHD are suspected, push for a psych evaluation. This documented mitigating factor could lead to probation with mandated counseling over detention.
- Alcohol and drug assessment – Insist on an AODA screening. Addiction treatment, if needed, may be incorporated into probation terms.
- Individual and family counseling – Regardless of adjudication, counseling can help your child process anger issues and develop better coping strategies.
- Alternative schools – For behavior problems at school, explore transfers to smaller alternative schools better equipped to provide support.
- Mentoring programs – Many faith and community groups offer youth mentoring and activities that can provide valuable role models and friendship.
While terrifying initially, this arrest can serve as a critical turning point and teachable moment for your child. With your support and guidance, they can emerge stronger, wiser and more resilient.
Conclusion: Stay Strong and Take Action
Being arrested and charged with assault turns your child’s world upside down overnight. They feel scared, overwhelmed and unsure of what comes next. As a parent, your love and support right now is more important than ever. Do everything possible to get them the best legal representation. Work closely with their lawyer to develop an effective defense strategy. Make sure they understands their rights. Attend every hearing to show the court you take the charges very seriously. And throughout the process, reinforce your knowledge that while they made a mistake, they are still a good kid with a bright future ahead. With your unwavering support, they will get through this difficult time.