State Must Show Proof Of Age By A “Preponderance Of The Evidence” In State v. Ali

One of the most crucial factors affecting the future of juveniles facing criminal charges is keeping a child from being charged as an adult and keeping a conviction off a minor’s permanent record. Having a case heard in a Michigan juvenile court can mean avoiding a conviction and jail time in an adult environment.

Recent case law examined the need to for prosecutors to prove a defendant’s age before trying a minor in adult court. In State v. Ali, a teen was indicted for first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the deaths of 3 individuals. The indictment alleged that the teen – Ali – was seventeen years old at the time of the alleged shootings. Under Minnesota law, where the case was filed, 17-year-olds are automatically subject to trial in the district court. Similarly, in Michigan, criminal charges are considered juvenile criminal matters if your child is under the age of 17. Once a teen turns 17, Michigan law considers him or her an “adult” and criminal charges may be brought in adult court. Further, where a minor is accused of serious criminal charges such as homicide, murder or aggravated assault, a prosecutor may seek to “waive up” a juvenile to adult court. To protect a minor’s future, it is critical to seek the help of an experienced juvenile crime defense attorney to keep the case out of adult court.

In Ali, the teen moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that he was only 15-years-old on the date of the shootings and that juvenile court had exclusive jurisdiction over the proceeding. The district court denied Ali’s appeal, concluding that Ali had already turned sixteen by the date of the shootings. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, finding that a motion to dismiss an indictment where the case is in the wrong court is immediately appealable. The court noted “if the court were to conclude that Ali was only 15-years-old at the time of the alleged offense, the court would be without jurisdiction to proceed further…no purpose is served by putting the parties through the rigors of trial before that determination is made.”

The court also determined that when the age of the defendant determines the jurisdiction of the court, the state has the burden to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” a defendant’s age on the date of an alleged offense. The court noted that if tried in the wrong court, a minor risks being deprived of the confidentiality of juvenile proceedings.

A crucial aspect of any juvenile criminal case is fighting to keep those matters in juvenile court and out of adult court. If your teenage son or daughter has been charged with any misdemeanor or felony offense it is important to have an aggressive Michigan juvenile crimes law firm fighting to protect his or her future and doing what it takes to keep the matter out of adult court.

For more information contact the skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyers at Grabel & Associates for an immediate consultation.