The Minnesota criminal justice system is not a monolithic institution. That is apparent in the way it handles accusations against children.
A child’s age could make a huge difference in a case outcome. While juvenile delinquency could apply to many offenses that children under 18 allegedly commit, there are also some gray areas and special procedures.
Children under 10 years old
Delinquency in children under 10 years old might result in a special type of action called “Child in Need of Protection or Services“. CHIPS actions have several possible stages, including:
- Determining that there is sufficient proof that a child needs protection or services
- Filing a petition with the court
- Providing notices and summons to all parties
- Conducting negotiations or a trial
Although this process could involve a trial, it is not the same as a criminal court case. There are specific rules of procedure that apply to these types of juvenile protection actions.
Children over 14
State law provides that children under 14 are legally incapable of committing crimes. However, the juvenile court could potentially certify a child who is over 14 to the adult court to face full criminal prosecution under applicable law.
This generally happens if the court decides that the child is particularly dangerous or has a history of criminal conduct. If the court intends to make this decision, there would be a hearing in which the child could present arguments and evidence.
Even if the juvenile court certifies the child to adult court, there is a chance that the child could still face a provisional juvenile sentence as an extended jurisdiction juvenile (EJJ). With all of these complications, age becomes one of many variables that could impact the outcome of a case, and, therefore, a child’s future.