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Juvenile Delinquency

Minnesota Juvenile Court Defense: Juvenile Attorney

Thomas Gallagher, a Minneapolis Juvenile Attorney, represents young people in juvenile delinquency cases in Minnesota juvenile court.  And he has since 1988.

Gallagher’s work as a juvenile attorney, is part of his work as a criminal defense lawyer.

In addition, he has years of experience as a civil commitment defense lawyer (mental illness and chemical dependency cases).

He has educational and volunteer background in Psychology, and with Autistic Children.

And these experiences help Gallagher’s clients.  After all, traditional juvenile court is a criminal, due process-oriented court; as well as a problem-solving court.

Traditional Juvenile Court

When the government claims a juvenile violated a criminal statute, most of the adult criminal laws apply. There are differences, however.

Justice is the product of persistent effort.
Justice: product of persistent effort

Rehabilitation Focus

“Traditional juvenile court jurisdiction was the result of social movement of the late 19th Century.  And it’s premise was a fundamental belief that young people, are not as responsible for their behavior as adults.

Since juveniles lack the experience to develop judgment, they are more in need of rehabilitation.  And today, science backs that up.  Juvenile brains are still developing cognitively.

Unlike adult criminal cases, when it comes to juvenile delinquency cases – the public policy priority is rehabilitation.

Your juvenile attorney can help you keep the focus on rehabilitation.

Compared to Adult Criminal Defense

This basic public-policy choice creates the differences between adult criminal court and juvenile delinquency court.

So even the terminology is different. 

In traditional juvenile court, we do “juvenile delinquency defense,” not “criminal defense.”  In juvenile court, the prosecutor files a Petition for Adjudication of Delinquency, not a criminal Complaint.  And in juvenile court, an adjudication of delinquency is possible, not a conviction of a crime.

Moreover, adult criminal cases are a matter of public record.  But public criminal records can prevent rehabilitation.

As a result, the traditional rule has been to keep juvenile court records closed from public view.  Even so, there are exceptions.  And the recent trend has been to criminalize juvenile court in general; and specifically to make juvenile delinquency court records more public.  See our web page on juvenile court records in Minnesota.

Two types of cases in juvenile court

Most Lawyers in juvenile court are government lawyers – from the County Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices. And most cases in juvenile court in Minnesota are either:

  1. CHIPS (“CHild In need of Protective Services” – allegedly; formerly called abuse and neglect cases) petition cases, or
  2. juvenile delinquency petition cases.

An easy way to think of the difference is that in a CHIPS case the parent(s) are the accused; but in a delinquency case the child is the accused.

Though Juvenile Attorney Thomas Gallagher has represented people in both; he generally does CHIPS cases for only existing criminal defense clients. 

Attorney Thomas Gallagher frequently represents children in juvenile delinquency petition cases. And he has decades experience doing so.

Protect yourself now. Juvenile Attorney Thomas Gallagher can help.
Protect yourself now. Juvenile Attorney Thomas Gallagher can help

Problem Solving Juvenile Delinquency Cases

To analyze a juvenile delinquency case, Gallagher first considers it as if it were an adult, criminal case.  Then, we modify the analysis to fit the differences in traditional juvenile court. The most important of those differences are:

  • types of dispositions or outcomes;
  • the availability of government records of criminal or delinquent allegations and any adjudications (public, or not); and
  • the lack of a right to jury trial.  In recent decades, traditional juvenile court is no longer the only option for government prosecution of certain juveniles.

When it comes to charges of crimes by juveniles, there are three broad categories of cases:

  1. By far the most common, “traditional” juvenile court jurisdiction;
  2. Adult court certification; and
  3. A hybrid of the previous two, Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction (“EJJ”) which stays an adult sentence with probation conditions; and extends juvenile court jurisdiction to age 21.

The last two are less common, and for the more serious cases.  Prosecutors file for adult certification and EJJ based on the severity level of the charge, and prior record.  When they do, your Juvenile Attorney can help you stop them.

Most juvenile cases are still in traditional juvenile court.  There are two categories of these cases:

1.  Claims of behavior which would be a crime if performed by an adult, i.e. in violation of Minnesota criminal statutes.  Examples include:

2.  Claims of conduct which would not be a violation of law if done by an adult.  These are sometimes termed “status offenses” based on age.  Examples would include, truancy, violation of curfew, etc. And underage consumption, even for adults under 21 years old.

The Next Steps: Help from a Juvenile Attorney

Start with a phone call

Where do you begin?  It usually starts with a phone call from a family member, asking about legal help from a juvenile attorney.  But a juvenile can call for some help, too.

Saint Augustine, Confessions
Saint Augustine, Confessions

“Near our vineyard there was a pear tree laden with fruit that was not attractive in either flavor or form. One night, when I [at the age of sixteen] had played until dark on the sandlot with some other juvenile delinquents, we went to shake that tree and carry off its fruit. From it we carried off huge loads, not to feast on, but to throw to the pigs; although we did eat a few ourselves.

We did it just because it was forbidden.”

Saint Augustine, in his book, Confessions, circa 398 A.D.

What advantage can a private Juvenile Attorney, like Gallagher, offer, compared to a public defender?

Time spent working up the defense case. (Public defenders tend to be great lawyers, but have a heavy case load due to chronic under-funding by the state.)

Of course, someone is paying for that lawyer time and effort. This is the way a private lawyer like Gallagher can achieve superior results.  By putting in more time and effort, we can achieve higher quality justice for you.

Initial conference or retainer meeting with Juvenile Attorney

The next step is scheduling an initial meeting in Gallagher’s office. This is a meeting of the potential client and his or her parents.

As we begin to work up the defense case, we start with the client’s information.  We cover what is at stake; what the facts appear to be; and claims made against the client.

Focus on outcome

We start with identifying potential consequences (including so-called “collateral” consequences), and the outcome goal.  Cases (or outcomes) that appear more challenging warrant more legal resources.  And ideally you’ll have an experienced juvenile attorney helping you achieve that goal.

In adult criminal cases, there are two major bright-lines in terms of outcomes. These are whether a public “criminal record” will result, and, whether there could be a prison commitment.

The first correlates to cases where the person has no prior convictions, generally.

The second bright-line correlates to cases where the person either has prior convictions or is facing a serious felony claim.

With juveniles, we still have concern about the “criminal record” for people who don’t have one yet.  For juveniles, instead of prison commitment, we fear an “out of home placement.” 

One type, County Home School seems like “the workhouse for kids,” and can intensify exposure kids to troubled peers. This is not often a real concern unless the juvenile has prior adjudications, or is facing a serious felony claim.

Seven tips for parents & lawyers in juvenile delinquency cases:

  1. Parents do not want their kid to be adjudicated delinquent — the functional equivalent of an adult conviction record.  We especially fear Out of Home Placements. In terms of programming, the government has limited resources. Despite good intentions, your kid may be better off with a private solution if you can afford it.
  2. Avoid preaching or judging. Avoid blaming. Redirect attention to the future, and problem-solving.  Beware dependency and co-dependency behaviors.
  3. These cases can be life-changing – for good or ill. We all must work hard, fight hard.
  4. Too many of these cases resolve via settlement. So set a goal. And then litigate until either settlement meets the client’s goal, or take it to trial. But never give up. Even if lost on the question of delinquency adjudication, we can still argue disposition. And sometimes judges are more compassionate than prosecutors.
  5. The Juvenile Attorney should make sure the client fully understands.  She should understand what is at stake; what her outcome goal is; and why. And the lawyer should listen to her.
  6. Social workers, probation officers, and others, outnumber juvenile lawyers when discussing cases with judges in chambers. This is a weakness of juvenile court. Lobby all of the players when you can, where you can. But listening is essential.
  7. The Juvenile Attorney should be sure his client hears and understands the concerns of others in the case.  Encourage her to take it to heart. Help the client “gain insight” into how others perceive them. Help the client understand how to win-over all involved, to support the client’s outcome goal. Solicit the client’s personal involvement. Coach the client. Help the client communicate effectively.
Contact Juvenile Attorney Thomas Gallagher by phone, to discuss your case
Contact Juvenile Attorney Thomas Gallagher, about your case

Juvenile Attorney Gallagher’s Qualifications

Representing juveniles in delinquency cases is similar to adult criminal cases, but with a twist or two.  

In addition to his qualifications and ratings as a criminal attorney; Thomas Gallagher is a juvenile attorney uniquely qualified to help young people and families through times of trouble:

  • Psychology undergraduate education and training (behavioral, cognitive, developmental, perception, social, abnormal, counseling)
  • training in dependency and co-dependency issues
  • civil commitment court defense representation; training in major mental illnesses and personality disorders, using the DSM-5 and working with social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists
  • experience identifying mental health and chemical health issues, and using them to help his clients with their court case
  • compassion, empathy, patience and hard work
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Have a question? Give Juvenile Attorney Thomas Gallagher a call.  612 333-1500

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