Last month, Governor Chris Christie signed off on legislation that will introduce an overhaul to the juvenile justice system across the state and will change the way minors who commit crimes are tried and sentenced. The bill, S2003, has been in the works for quite a while and now that the governor has given it the green light, the changes are set to begin in seven months.
What’s Set to Change?
The bill introduces a number of reforms to the system currently in place for juveniles who have been charged with criminal offenses. One of the major reforms will increase the minimum age that a juvenile must be before he or she can be tried as an adult from 14 to 15.
Pushing this age limit up a year will allow more young teens who have been charged with criminal behavior to benefit from reformative and rehabilitative services offered to younger criminals instead of spending years behind bars after receiving an adult sentence.
Another change the bill introduces is the move to prohibit teen offenders from being transferred to adult courts in all but the most serious of criminal cases. The bill also prohibits the incarceration of juveniles in adult facilities until they turn 18 -- again for all cases but the most severe crimes.
Currently, youth offenders can be sentenced to adult prisons at the age of 16. Many studies have shown the negative effects of sending minors to adult prisons at early ages, and the change from 16 to 18 will cut down on most of those cases.
S2003 will also allow juvenile offenders who are facing transfers to adult prisons and facilities to retain representation from the Office of the Public Defender if they have not been able to retain their own outside counsel from a legal service group or private attorney. Additionally, teens who have been charged as adults for their crimes and are being detained before trial can now be held in juvenile facilities instead of adult jails.
Punishment vs. Rehab
The main goal of the new reform bill will be to provide young kids who have made mistakes with options for changing their ways and starting over. One of the worst parts of juvenile offenses is the lasting effect a criminal case can have on the individual and some kids may carry those effects with them for the next 50 years.
However, once enacted, the new reforms should be able to separate the serious crimes from the crimes that have potential for rehabilitation and offer minor offenders the chance to change.
At the law firm of Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we represent anyone under the age of 18 who has been charged with criminal activity. If you have been charged with a crime and you are a minor, you could be facing serious consequences, depending on the severity of your crime.
Additionally, if you have a pending case, you could be eligible to benefit under the system’s reforms. For more information regarding the juvenile justice system and options available to you, contact our New Jersey defense attorneys at HCK today.