For more than two decades, lawmakers have supported a range of amendments to the state laws that transfer teens to adult court.
They fall into three categories:
Automatic transfers: Teens go directly to adult criminal court and are arraigned there. Judges have no discretion to send them back to juvenile court, except in low-level drug cases. Minimum age for most automatic transfers is 15, though it’s age 13 in murder cases.
Mandatory transfers: Teenagers’ cases start in juvenile court, but state’s attorneys can ask judges to move them to adult criminal court. Judges must grant such motions if prosecutors can prove teens are probably guilty and their crimes were tied to gangs. Minimum age: 15.
Presumptive transfers: Teenagers’ cases start in juvenile court, but state’s attorneys can ask judges to move them to adult criminal court. Prosecutors must prove that not only are such teens probably guilty, but they are not “amenable to the care, treatment and training programs” available through the juvenile court. Minimum age: 15.
The history of transfer laws in Illinois:
1982: Automatic: Murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated carjacking. Carjacking and criminal sexual assault become “aggravated” when the victim is elderly or a child, or when a gun is used by the perpetrator.
1985: Automatic: Unlawful use of a weapon on school grounds or selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, public housing building or other public facility.
1990: Mandatory: A combination of a forcible felony—any felony that involves the use or threat of physical force or violence, such as murder or aggravated battery—with prior felony conviction and gang activity; presumptive transfer crimes committed along with forcible felonies.
1991: Automatic: Any minor who escapes from jail or violates bail.
1995: Automatic: 13- and 14-year-olds who commit murder in the course of aggravated criminal sexual assault.
Mandatory: Within 1,000 feet of a school, public housing or other public facility, firing a gun when it is “aggravated,” meaning the gun is fired at or in a building the shooter knows is occupied, or in the direction of a police officer, emergency medical technician or teacher.
Presumptive: Class X felonies other than armed violence; aggravated firing of a gun; armed violence with a gun when the crime involves a Class 1 or 2 felony, such as battery or assault, and gang activity.
1996: Presumptive: Armed violence with a gun when involved with a drug offense; armed violence with a machine gun or other weapon.
1999: Automatic: All cases involving jeveniles previously transferred and convicted.
In the Juvenile Justice Reform Provisions of 1998, prosecutors were granted the right to ask a judge for teens to be sentenced in both the juvenile and adult systems. If the teen successfully completes his juvenile sentence, the adult sentence is vacated. But, if the teen violates the conditions of his juvenile sentence or commits another offense, the adult criminal sentence immediately kicks in.
2000: Automatic: Within 1,000 feet of a school, public housing or other public facility, a battery that is “aggravated”—intentionally causes great bodily harm or permanent disability to a person, or in which the perpetrator knows that the individual harmed is an authority, such as a caseworker, teacher or police officer.
2003: Automatic: Low-level drug crimes within 1,000 feet of a school, public housing or other public facility can be waived back to juvenile court.
Sources: Illinois Compiled Statutes; Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative.