Our mission is to provide for a child’s protection, victim and community safety, and to preserve families while always focusing on a child’s safety and best interests.
The Juvenile Court is part of the Family Division of Circuit Court. The Juvenile Division of the Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office plays a key role in holding juveniles accountable for their criminal acts. In Michigan an individual who commits a misdemeanor or felony prior to his or her eighteenth birthday is treated as a juvenile. This division is responsible for the review of submitted police reports for legal sufficiency of criminal charges, charging juveniles with the appropriate offense, and following the case through the court system until the juvenile is adjudicated as a delinquent ward of the court. The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office places a strong emphasis on rehabilitating young offenders to prevent recidivism. Less serious offenses may be diverted to a community-based program, or where appropriate be transferred to the consent calendar, which holds the juvenile responsible, yet avoids any criminal record.
While rehabilitation is the central focus of the juvenile delinquency system, the Juvenile Division aggressively prosecutes the most serious offenders. This can include “waiving” juvenile offenders to adult court. In those circumstances the juvenile will be treated as an adult, and may very well face imprisonment in the adult criminal justice system.
In addition to the responsibility of managing delinquency matters, the Juvenile Division acts as the legal consultant to the Macomb County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in child abuse and neglect matters. When DHHS substantiates a case of abuse or neglect of a child, the agency will present a petition to the court requesting removal of the child from the parental home. A Juvenile Division Assistant Prosecutor will appear at the initial preliminary hearing conducted within 24 hours of the child’s removal. The Juvenile Division attorney will consult and advise the DHHS throughout the course of the case, and will represent the agency at all subsequent court hearings. In cases of serious physical abuse, sexual abuse, or where a parent has been given time to rectify a problem but has failed to do so, the Juvenile Division will represent the agency in the subsequent hearing seeking court termination of parental rights. In handling both delinquency and child protective proceedings, the Juvenile Division Assistant Prosecutors consult with police officers, school officials, court staff, DHHS child protective services and foster care workers, mental health professionals, parents, children, crime victims and witnesses.
Chief: Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tonya Goetz
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Plymale
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Marian Dwaihy-Briske
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Megan McKeon
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Urban
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andres Villafane
Juvenile Court Philosophy
The philosophy of the Family Court’s Juvenile Division is treatment and accountability for the delinquent youth, balanced against the safety needs of our community. Police, Prosecutors, Courts, and the schools must work together with the family and our community to meet this challenge.
Juvenile Court Process
Petition: After a police investigation, an assistant prosecutor reviews all reports and facts to decide whether court action is required. If so, the prosecutor authorizes a petition, listing the offense(s) with which the juvenile is charged. The petition is filed with the Circuit Court’s Family Division, which officially starts the court process.
Preliminary Inquiry: An inquiry is an informal meeting where the court gathers family information and explains the process to the juvenile and family. A prosecutor might not attend this hearing. The juvenile is informed of the charged offenses, and his/her constitutional rights. The juvenile’s family can file for a court-appointed attorney at this hearing.
Preliminary Hearing: If the juvenile is taken into custody, a preliminary hearing will be conducted within 24 hours. Like an adult arraignment, the juvenile will be represented by counsel and the court will determine the acceptance of the charge and address bond.
The Family Court’s Juvenile Division Can:
- Warn the juvenile and dismiss the petition when appropriate in non-victim rights cases; refer the child for voluntary counseling;
- Place the juvenile on informal probation (diversion or consent calendar) if the juvenile qualifies and it is appropriate because it serves the
- Juvenile’s and the public’s best interests; or
- Schedule further hearings on the court’s “formal docket”.
If the juvenile will admit responsibility for the offense(s), the court will schedule a “plea & disposition” hearing. The youth may be released to his/her parents’ care with terms or conditions, or may be held at the Youth Facility if release into the public would endanger the youth or the public.
Pre-Trial Conference: If the juvenile does not initially admit responsibility for the offense, a pretrial conference will be scheduled. A prosecuting attorney and the juvenile’s attorney meet regarding whether the juvenile will plead to the charged offense(s) or different offense(s), or if the case will go to trial. Crime victims are encouraged to attend pre-trial conferences so the prosecutor can discuss options for resolving the case.
Adjudication: A case may be adjudicated by a guilty plea or trial verdict that the juvenile committed an offense. In a jury or judge trial, the prosecution must prove the juvenile’s responsibility beyond a reasonable doubt. The juvenile is not required to prove his/her innocence.
Disposition: The disposition is similar to an adult court “sentencing”. A probation agent’s report summarizes the youth’s background and need for services, and recommends terms of disposition. The judge considers this information and decides the final terms of the disposition. The judge has wide latitude, but must order services and programs appropriate for the welfare of the juvenile and society. Typical dispositions include probation, counseling, writing a letter of apology to victim, community service, and restitution.
The Judge Can:
- Warn the juvenile and/or parents and terminate the court’s jurisdiction;
- Place the juvenile on in-home probation with parents, relatives or guardians;
- Place the juvenile in foster care subject to the court’s jurisdiction;
- Order community service by the juvenile;
- Send the juvenile to a private or public institution or agency for the treatment and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders;
- Order health care for the juvenile;
- Order participation in programs (e.g., counseling, school, drug or alcohol treatment);
- Place the juvenile in a juvenile boot camp;
- Order the parents to participate in treatment and/or refrain from conduct harmful to the juvenile;
- Order a period of probation with probation rules to follow;
- Order the juvenile & parent(s) supervising the child at the time of the incident to pay full restitution to the victims of the delinquency behavior;
- Order payment of a crime victim rights assessment fee, and reimbursement of court appointed attorney fees and other court service expenses.
Crime victims are encouraged to attend disposition hearings. Victims may deliver verbal or written impact statements. The statement may explain physical, psychological or emotional harm suffered by the victim; explain economic loss or property damage suffered; request restitution; and recommend appropriate terms of disposition.
Treating Juveniles as Adults
In rare cases, a 14 – 17 year old juvenile may face adult criminal charges. When a juvenile commits a serious violent felony, including first or second degree murder, armed robbery, or car-jacking, the prosecuting attorney has complete discretion to charge that juvenile as an adult.
The decision to charge a juvenile as an adult is not something the Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office takes lightly. When a juvenile is alleged to have committed a violent, or heinous crime, the Office administration, the Juvenile Unit, and the law enforcement agency investigating crime, come together to determine if adult changes should be levied. The impact on the victim and the community at large is always the guiding principal in the decision making process.