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Can My Teenager Be Charged as an Adult?

Johnny, age 17, causes a traffic accident in which another driver is killed. When the police start to investigate, they find out that Johnny was drinking and smoking marijuana just before getting into the car. His parents are worried sick, but take initial solace in the idea that at least he will be charged with a juvenile and not face an adult prison sentence…or will he?

In Michigan, a person who commits a crime before his/her 18th birthday will be charged in Juvenile Court with a “delinquency” violation.  The date of the alleged offense is the controlling date, and not the date in which the person is charged.  

There are “Designated Offenses,” that if committed by someone after his or her 14th birthday but before his or her 18th birthday, the Prosecutor or Court may seek to try the case in adult court [MCR 3.950 et seq, MCL §712A.2D, MCL §769.1].  These include many felony offenses. 

If the Prosecutor seeks to “Designate” an offense for Adult Court, there must be a Designation Hearing pursuant to MCR 3.952. This must happen within 14 days after your arraignment, when the Prosecutor has the burden of proving by a Preponderance of Evidence that it would be in your best interest and the public’s would be best served by designation.  Factors include the seriousness of the offense; your prior record (if applicable); and dispositional options at the juvenile level.  

If a designated juvenile is found guilty in adult court, the Sentencing Judge can either sentence them as a juvenile (including committing them to the state up until their 21st birthday), or can sentence them as an adult (including to adult state prison).  

We have all heard the science behind the idea that young people’s brains take years to develop, often times into their early-20’s.  That fact—coupled with concepts like peer pressure, hormones and substance abuse---often leads young people to commit foolish crimes and end up in Michigan’s Criminal Justice System.  Unfortunately, if a juvenile commits a serious offense, they might find themselves staring down a very scary adult prison sentence (not to mention a felony adult conviction that will haunt them for the rest of their lives).

Geherin Law Group, PLLC. has defended thousands of criminal cases in Ann Arbor and throughout Southeastern Michigan for young adult and juvenile offenders. Firm founder Daniel T. Geherin is a former prosecutor and board-certified criminal trial attorney who has been practicing law for 25+ years. He’s been rated by Martindale-Hubbell as AV-Preeminent; listed in The Best Lawyers in America; named by Super Lawyers Magazine in the field of Criminal Defense; recognized as a “Top Lawyer” by Detroit Business Magazine; and scored 10/10 “superb” by  He also has 350+ 5-star client reviews.  

Based in Ann Arbor, GLG Michigan has had a long and steady client base of University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan College Students, as well as many high school student clients.   Dan is one of the few private criminal defense attorneys in Washtenaw County who specializes in juvenile delinquency cases.  He’s well-versed and greatly experienced in finding paths to avoid young clients being treated as adults and ending up with an adult prison or jail sentence.  

If your son or daughter has been charged with a crime in Washtenaw County or Southeastern Michigan, and you want to discuss options on how to avoid a lifetime consequence, please call or email GLG Michigan 24/7 at (734) 263-2780 or online