The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling this fall that could significantly decrease the number of juvenile court cases that are tried in adult court. In September, the state Supreme Court ruled on a 2009 case involving three juveniles charged as adults in a robbery. The court found that the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office had failed to prove that the juveniles should be tried as adults, lowering the standards for juveniles trying to avoid adult court.
Previously, New Jersey criminal attorneys representing juveniles had to prove that prosecutors had committed a “patent and gross” abuse of discretion in pushing a juvenile case to adult court, but the Supreme Court ruling negates the extreme qualification. Juveniles and their attorneys must only prove that an attorney abused his discretion in pushing a criminal case to adult court. The Supreme Court ruling also means that prosecutors must now explain, on a case by case basis, why trying juveniles as adults, rather than placing them in a treatment or juvenile detention center, would prevent them from committing crimes in the future.
According to the court, young people tried as adults often suffer further from sexual abuse or suicidal thoughts while imprisoned, and once released, suffer the blight of a permanent criminal record, which makes it hard to hold down a job and start a new life. For juveniles, this burden is particularly hard because many of them committed crimes in their early to late teenage years, and after a long imprisonment, find it hard to start out as an adult.
New Jersey criminal attorneys advocate that juvenile court promotes rehabilitation and community service, and that adult courts and jails usually treat juveniles less fairly. Young adults facing criminal charges often prefer juvenile court because convictions can be sealed at the request of the court. A sealed record can protect a juvenile from his young mistakes, and help him to lead a rehabilitated life.
A juvenile crime does not have to result in a life sentence, and with the Supreme Court’s ruling, a young person has a better chance of rehabilitation and starting over. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, our experienced New Jersey criminal attorneys help protect juveniles who are facing criminal charges.