Frequently Asked Questions* - Juvenile Law

Juvenile Law

Curfew laws are "status offenses," or acts that would not be crimes if committed by an adult. Truancy (skipping school), possession of alcohol or tobacco, and running away are other examples of status offenses. Curfew laws are usually local city or county ordinances that prohibit young people (usually under age 18) from being out in public during certain hours. Each jurisdiction (city/town and/or county) has its own curfew laws, so it is a good idea for all parents to ask local authorities about the hours for curfew and to tell their children about these restrictions too.

Curfew violations and other status offenses are occasionally handled without entering the juvenile court system. Police officers can issue warnings or refer minors to administrative agencies designed to deal with juvenile issues, but sometimes a court appearance is necessary.

The juvenile court system operates separately from both the civil and criminal court systems. Juvenile court addresses delinquency cases and abuse and neglect cases.

Delinquent offenses, or acts committed by minors under age 17 that are considered crimes regardless of the age of the person committing them (possession of illegal drugs, assault, robbery).

Punishments for curfew violations vary by jurisdiction. Common penalties include: fines, mandatory home or community service, driver’s license restrictions, and in some instances even detention in a juvenile correctional facility. Often local police can exercise judgment about whether to ticket or charge a juvenile, but this varies widely by jurisdiction. Judges may also decide to offer leniency to first-time offenders or based on the circumstances of a given case.

While juvenile records remain sealed (inaccessible to the public) until age 18, there are procedures to keep some or all of a minor’s record sealed once they reach legal age. Because every case is unique, it is difficult to say whether or how a conviction for a curfew violation will impact your child’s future educational or employment opportunities. If you are not sure whether an attorney can help resolve your particular situation, contact us for a free consultation.

Ideally, our children will heed our advice not to send revealing or sexually explicit images of themselves or others via text messaging, aka "sexting." But even the best children make mistakes or exercise poor judgment, and before January 1, 2011, a poor decision could have landed your teen in serious trouble.

A new law changes existing laws written before the internet and smart phones became tween and teen playgrounds. Before this loophole was closed, creating nude images of anyone under age 18 (including provocative self-portraits) constituted felony child pornography, and anyone sending these images via text message or posting on the internet could have been charged with felony distribution of child pornography and required to register as sex offenders.

This does not mean teens should not exercise good judgment, however. The new "sexting" law, House Bill 4583, provides more reasonable but still serious penalties, including allowing minors who send explicit images via a computer or electronic communication device (cell phone) can be taken into police custody and found in need of juvenile court supervision, court-ordered counseling and/or community service.

Traditional sex offender laws will still apply to situations where images are taken without a minor’s consent or by repeat offenders. The bottom line: make sure your children know the consequences of "sexting" and advise them to simply not do it. If you do find your child in a situation involving sexting, consult an attorney for advice.

The adoption process can be intimidating, expensive, and long, and there are legal safeguards in place to ensure that both the adoptive and birth parents are in full agreement about this life-changing decision.

Illinois law requires birth mothers to sign an irrevocable consent form that terminates her parental rights. This form can not be signed until 72 hours after the baby is born, allowing time in case the birth mother decides not to place the child for adoption. The consent form must be formally approved by a judge or authorized social service personnel. Attorneys and notaries cannot approve a consent form.

As for the birth father, the birth mother can either name the baby’s father, state that the identity of the baby’s father is unknown and explain why, or refuse to name the father and explain why not (for example, an abusive relationship). This statement must be in the form of an affidavit (a signed, sworn statement). Birth mothers who refuse to identify the father or who identify the wrong man as the father cannot sue to invalidate an adoption later.

A man is legally considered the father of a child if he is married to the birth mother on the day the child is born or up to 300 days before the birth. A court finding of paternity can also establish a man as a legal father. There is an additional law called the Illinois Putative Father Registry Statute. A putative father is not married to the birth mother and has not otherwise tried to establish that he is a child’s father. Under this law, a man has 30 days to register information about his identity, the birth mother and, if already born, the child in order to establish paternity. After that, a court will require further steps for a man seeking any legal rights regarding his child.

Once both birth parents give parental consent to the adoption and the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents are legally considered the child’s parents. No matter where you are in the adoption process, if you need legal advice, contact our office for a free consultation about your specific situation.

This situation would fall under Illinois child neglect laws, which cover when a parent or caretaker fails to provide adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter or other basics for a child. This is different from child abuse, which involves physical, sexual, or emotional harm to a child, but child neglect is also taken seriously by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)

A DCFS visit does not automatically mean a parent will lose custody of his or her children. When someone calls the DCFS Child Abuse Hotline, the staff determines whether a case of abuse or neglect occurred and if so, a formal report is taken. Within 24 hours, a Child Protection Services worker will begin an investigation (much sooner if the child is found to be in immediate risk of harm).

After meeting with both the person who reported the abuse or neglect and the alleged victim, an investigator may determine that either the report was not made in good faith or that abuse or neglect did not occur. If so, the investigation will be closed. However, if evidence of abuse or neglect is found, the investigator will open a formal investigation.

Investigators have 60 days to come to a decision that either the report was “unfounded” or “indicated.” Decisions are based on whether credible evidence exists that abuse or neglect occurred. Every case is different, and if you are unsure whether an attorney can help you during a DCFS investigation, call our offices for a free consultation.

Unfortunately, bullying remains a problem in our schools, and with cell phone and internet use on the rise among students, cyber-bullying is a new form of harassment some students must face. Whether physical or emotional bullying is occurring, it is important to make teachers and administrators aware of the situation so they can first work to resolve it. Ask that your child’s identity be kept from the other student(s) if disciplinary action is taken. If you feel that the school administration is not addressing a bullying problem appropriately, then legal action may be necessary, including seeking a stalking/no contact order from a judge. Contact our office for a consultation about your child’s situation.

While juvenile records remain sealed (inaccessible to the public) until age 18, there are procedures available to keep some or all of a minor’s record sealed once they reach legal age. Because these procedures depend on the situation, contact our office for a free consultation to see whether keeping records sealed is an option

*DISCLAIMER: The questions and answers presented on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship.