One offense has sent more juveniles to state institutions or detention centers than any other offense: “incorrigibility”. Incorrigibility is a status offense, meaning that it is only a violation of the law because it is committed by a minor under age 18. What constitutes incorrigibility in Michigan and how is it punished?
WHAT IS INCORRIGIBILITY?
Regarding incorrigibility, the Family Division of the Circuit Court has “[e]xclusive original jurisdiction superior to and regardless of the jurisdiction of another court in proceedings concerning a juvenile under 18 years of age who is found within the county if . . . the following applies: The juvenile is repeatedly disobedient to the reasonable and lawful commands of his or her parents, guardian, or custodian, and the court finds on the record by clear and convincing evidence that court-accessed services are necessary.” MCL 712A.2(a)(3).
“The statute does not state or intimate a child’s disobedience must occur at ‘home’…, [for] the concept of disobeying one’s parents’ commands encompasses getting suspended from school or performing illegal acts.” In re Weiss, 224 Mich App 37, 41; 568 NW2d 336 (1997). Incorrigibility is very broad and can include, but is not limited to, any of the following:
- Leaving home without permission or violating curfew.
- Threatening to cause or causing physical harm to family members or others.
- Malicious property damage to the home or property of family members or others.
- Stealing money or other property from family members or others.
- Using alcohol, drugs, or other illegal substances including marijuana.
- Using vulgar or abusive language to parents or family members.
- Not following the parents’ reasonable requests.
- Associating with undesirable people against parental instructions.
- Skipping school or being disruptive in school against the parents’ directions.
CAN A JUVENILE CHARGED WITH INCORRIGIBILITY BE TAKEN INTO CUSTODY?
According to federal law, “a juvenile shall not be placed in a secure detention facility or a secure correctional facility if the juvenile is charged with or has committed an offense that would not be criminal if committed by an adult, excluding:”
- A juvenile who is charged with or has committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(x)(2) involving a firearm violation or of a similar state law. 34 U.S.C. 11133(11)(A)(i)(I).
- A juvenile who is charged with or has committed a violation of a valid court order. 34 U.S.C. §11133(11)(A)(i)(II).
- A juvenile who is held in accordance with the Interstate Compact on Juveniles as enacted by the State of Michigan. 34 U.S.C. §11133(11)(A)(i)(III).
Incorrigibility is an offense that would not be criminal if committed by an adult, so the above-exclusions apply. In Michigan, a child is generally not taken into custody for incorrigibility unless that child was already subject to court orders under pretrial release or probation conditions and violated them.
“If a juvenile is taken into custody for violating a court order under [MCL 712A.2(a)(3)] and is detained in a secure facility, the petitioner shall ensure that an appropriately trained, licensed, or certified mental health or substance abuse professional interviews the juvenile in person within 24 hours to assess the immediate mental health and substance abuse needs of the juvenile. The assessment may alternatively be done upon filing the petition, prior to any order for placement in a secure facility. Within 48 hours of the placement in the secure facility, the petitioner shall submit the assessment to the court and the court shall conduct a hearing to determine all of the following:”
- “If there is reasonable cause to believe that the juvenile violated the court order.” MCL 712A.15(3)(a).
- “The appropriate placement of the juvenile pending the disposition of the alleged violation, including if the juvenile should be placed in a secure facility.” MCL 712A.15(3)(b).
“A child taken into custody under [MCL 712A.2(a)(2)] must not be detained in any secure facility or in a cell or other secure area of any secure facility designed to incarcerate adults.” MCL 712A.15(4).
Federal and state law presume that the custodial detentiob of a juvenile accused of incorrigibility would cause more harm than good so the court must make specific findings that a court order was violated. If the juvenile is already on bond or probation, it is likely that they are subject to a great number of specific orders such as following directions at home, attending school every day and following specific curfews. Therefore, a juvenile that has already been adjudicated by the court is more likely to be lodged in a secure detention facility for incorrigible than someone who has been not.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A JUVENILE IS FOUND GUILTY OF INCORRIGIBILITY?
Where a juvenile is found to come under the jurisdiction of the court for incorrigibility, the judge or referee can issue any of the following dispositional orders as punishment:
- “Warn the juvenile or the juvenile’s parents, guardian, or custodian and… dismiss the petition.” MCL 712A.18(1)(a).
- “Place the juvenile on probation, or under supervision in the juvenile’s own home or in the home of an adult who is related to the juvenile. The court shall order the terms and conditions of probation or supervision, including reasonable rules for the conduct of the parents, guardian, or custodian, if any, as the court determines necessary for the physical, mental, or moral well-being and behavior of the juvenile.” MCL 712A.18(1)(b).
- “[P]lace the juvenile in or commit the juvenile to a private institution or agency approved or licensed by the department’s division of child welfare licensing for the care of juveniles of similar age, sex, and characteristics.” MCL 712A.18(1)(d).
- “[C]ommit the juvenile to a public institution, county facility, institution operated as an agency of the court or county, or agency authorized by law to receive juveniles of similar age, sex, and characteristics.” MCL 712A.18(1)(e).
- “Order the parents, guardian, custodian, or any other person to refrain from continuing conduct that the court determines has caused or tended to cause the juvenile to come within or to remain” under the jurisdiction of this court. MCL 712A.18(1)(g).
- “Order the juvenile to engage in community service.” MCL 712A.18(1)(i).
- If the juvenile violates a court order regarding probation conditions, then the court can “[o]rder the juvenile to be placed in a secure facility.” MCL 712A.18(1)(k).
A juvenile can be on probation until the age of 20 in the family division of the circuit court.
A JUVENILE FACING INCORRIGIBILITY CHARGES HAS THE RIGHT TO DEFEND AGAINST THE ALLEGATIONS WITH A SKILLED LAWYER IN HIS OR HER CORNER
Although incorrigibility is a status offense, the prosecuting attorney has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The juvenile can request a trial by jury, can subpoena witnesses to court in his or her defense, and have a juvenile delinquency lawyer on his or her side to protect their rights. Our law firm has substantial experience representing juveniles and obtaining favorable outcomes no matter what the charge is.
If you or a loved one have any questions about Michigan’s juvenile delinquency laws or need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.