Juvenile Court Defense in Minnesota
Thomas Gallagher, a Minneapolis Juvenile Attorney, represents young people in juvenile delinquency cases in Minnesota juvenile court. And he has since 1988.
In addition to Gallagher’s work as a juvenile attorney, he is 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 that a juvenile violated a criminal statute, most of the adult criminal laws apply. There are differences, however.
“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 primarily 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 fundamental public-policy choice determines most of the differences between adult criminal court and juvenile delinquency court.
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.
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 the web page here 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. Most cases in juvenile court in Minnesota are either:
- CHIPS (“CHild In need of Protective Services” – allegedly; formerly called abuse and neglect cases) petition cases, or
- juvenile delinquency petition cases.
An easy way to think of the difference is that in CHIPS case the parent(s) are the accused; but in a delinquency case the child is the accused.
Though Juvenile Attorney Gallagher has represented people in both kinds, he generally does CHIPS cases for only existing criminal defense clients. Gallagher frequently represents children in juvenile delinquency petition cases, and has decades experience doing so.
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 presented by traditional juvenile court. The most important of those differences may be:
(a) types of dispositions or outcomes;
(b) the availability of government records of criminal or delinquent allegations and any adjudications (public, or not); and
(c) 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:
- By far the most common, “traditional” juvenile court jurisdiction;
- Adult court certification; and
- 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 most 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:
- juveniles charged with criminal sexual conduct,
- Romeo & Juliet cases,
- misdemeanor assault, etc.
2. Claims of conduct which would not be a violation of law if done by an adult. These are sometimes termed “status offenses.” Examples would include, truancy, violation of curfew, etc.
The Next Steps
Start with a phone call
Where do you begin? It usually starts with a phone call from someone other than the child, asking about legal help from a juvenile attorney.
“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 generally achieve superior results. By putting in more time and effort than otherwise would occur, we can achieve higher quality justice for you.
Initial conference or retainer meeting
The next step is an initial meeting in Gallagher’s office. This is a meeting of the potential client and his or her parent(s).
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 the 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 call for the allocation of more legal resources to the effort. 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 whether a public “criminal record” will result, and, whether there could be a commitment to prison.
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,” such as “county home school.”
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 things to consider in juvenile delinquency cases:
- Parents do not want their kid to be adjudicated delinquent — the functional equivalent of an adult conviction record. We especially fear an Out of home placements. In terms of programming, the government has limited resources. Despite its good intentions, your kid may be better off with a private solution if you can afford it.
- Avoid preaching or judging. Avoid blaming. Redirect attention to the future, and problem-solving. Beware dependency and co-dependency behaviors.
- These cases are important. They can be life-changing – for good or ill. All involved must take these cases seriously, work hard, fight hard.
- Too many of these cases resolve via settlement. Set a goal. Then litigate until either settlement meets the client’s goal, or take it to trial. Never give up. Even if lost on the question of delinquency adjudication, disposition can still be argued. Sometimes judges are more compassionate than competitive prosecutors.
- 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 be sure to listen to her.
- 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. Listening is essential.
- The Juvenile Attorney should be sure his client hears and understands the concerns of others involved 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 client’s outcome goal. Solicit the client’s personal involvement. Coach the client. Help the client understand how to communicate effectively with others.
Juvenile Attorney Gallagher’s Qualifications Specific to Juvenile Delinquency Clients
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, Gallagher is a juvenile attorney uniquely qualified to help young people and family through times of trouble:
- Psychology undergraduate education and training (behavioral, cognitive, developmental, perception, social, abnormal, counseling)
- including volunteer work with autistic children at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital
- training in dependency and co-dependency issues
- civil commitment court defense representation, and 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
Have a question? Give Juvenile Attorney Thomas C Gallagher a call. He is happy to give answers.
Or you can set up a free half-hour consultation. 612 333-1500