If your child has been charged with a juvenile offense, a judgment of delinquency could impact his or her life for years to come. While New Jersey’s juvenile justice system primarily focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment, the consequences of a finding of delinquency can feel a lot like punishment, and they can last long after your child’s sentence has been served. As a result, it is important to take juvenile delinquency cases very seriously, and your child will need an experienced New Jersey juvenile lawyer representing him or her in court.
Juvenile Court vs. Criminal Court
Juvenile court and criminal court are very different. For example, while the juvenile justice system is focused on reform, there are no juries, and there is no option for bail. If your child is currently being detained, it may be possible to have him or her released into your custody subject to conditions (i.e., wearing an ankle monitor), but this is up to the judge’s discretion.
There are four possible routes a juvenile case can take in New Jersey. These are (i) decision by a Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC) or Intake Services Committee (ISC), (ii) decision by a juvenile referee following an informal court proceeding, or (iii) decision by a judge following a formal court proceeding, or (iv) for serious offenses in certain circumstances, the prosecutor may seek a waiver of the juvenile to adult court, and if that is granted, your child will be treated as an adult criminal. The route your child’s case takes will be determined based on your child’s age, their prior record (if any), the seriousness of the alleged offense, and certain other factors.
“Counsel-Mandatory” Court Hearings
If your child’s case gets assigned to a judge, the case will go in front of a judge for an informal “counsel-mandatory” hearing. This means that your child is required to have a lawyer. If your family cannot afford a lawyer, you will need to complete a form (Form 5A) to apply for a public defender. As the New Jersey Courts explain, “[p]ublic defender representation for juveniles facing delinquency charges is not free, and you may be billed for services performed by the public defender’s office.”
Possible Sentences in Juvenile Cases
In juvenile cases, sentences are referred to as “dispositions and consequences.” Possible dispositions and consequences in New Jersey juvenile court proceedings include:
- Community service
- Release to parental custody
- Mandatory mental health or substance abuse treatment
- Mandatory work, outdoor, academic or vocational programs
Possible Defenses in Juvenile Court
While juvenile court and criminal court are very different, the types of defenses available in juvenile cases are largely similar to those available to criminal defendants. This means that there are several potential defenses available, and your family will need to work with an experienced New Jersey juvenile lawyer to pursue a positive outcome in light of the circumstances at hand.
Schedule a Consultation with a New Jersey Juvenile Lawyer
If your child is facing charges in juvenile court, our New Jersey juvenile lawyer can help, and we encourage you to contact us promptly for a confidential consultation. Call 877-435-6371 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending juvenile and criminal cases as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.