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In New Jersey, matters involving juvenile offenders are handled in the Family Court rather than in the Criminal Court. The rules, procedures and potential outcomes in these cases are very different from those in criminal court. Without the help of an experienced New Jersey juvenile lawyer, underage individuals accused of juvenile offenses can face substantial penalties that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Our attorneys defend juveniles throughout the State of New Jersey. We are sensitive to the uniquely-challenging aspects of these cases, and we work closely with our clients through the entire judicial process to help them make smart decisions and present the strongest possible defense. With centuries of combined legal experience, our defense lawyers and have represented juveniles charged virtually all major offenses prosecuted under New Jersey law, including:
We realize that young people and their families often have special needs and face difficult circumstances in life. Divided families, alcohol and drug use, issues at school, physical and sexual abuse, and other issues with psychological impact can all play a role in juveniles facing criminal charges. We are able to help our clients address and overcome many of these challenges, and we can use the unique facts of each client’s case to argue for leniency or seek a dismissal of charges at trial.
At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., your New Jersey juvenile lawyer will also help your family take advantage of services and programs that can:
While juveniles can be charged with all types of criminal offenses existing under New Jersey law, certain charges are more common than others. For example, we routinely represent alleged juvenile offenders who have been charged with:
If you or your child is facing charges as a juvenile, it can be helpful to gain a basic understanding of the juvenile justice process in New Jersey. Here are some of the key facts you need to know:
In juvenile court, acts that are charged as “crimes” and “disorderly persons offenses” when committed by individuals over the age of 18 are referred to as acts of “delinquency.” Specifically, under Section 2A:4A-23 of the New Jersey Code, delinquency means:
“[T]he commission of an act by a juvenile which if committed by an adult would constitute: (a) A crime; (b) A disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense; or (c) A violation of any other penal statute, ordinance or regulation.”
As a juvenile in New Jersey, you are not technically “arrested,” but instead, “taken into custody.” Once you are taken into custody, the police only have a limited amount of time to decide whether or not to file charges against you. If you are charged with a juvenile offense that carries the potential for detention, you can also be held in detention pending trial.
Since a juvenile delinquency case is not a criminal case, alleged juvenile offenders are not entitled to a trial by jury. Instead, the Family Court judge presiding over your case will hear the facts and determine if you should be sentenced for the offense(s) you are alleged to have committed.
The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in criminal cases does not apply to juvenile delinquency proceedings in Family Court. Instead, after hearing evidence from both sides, the judge will determine whether sentencing is appropriate based upon consideration of the “best interests of your child.”
Depending upon what the judge determines is in your “best interests,” there are several potential sentences that can you can face in juvenile court. These typically include detention, probation, community service, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, and loss of driving privileges. However, Family Court judges have broad discretion to fashion other sentences as well.
Regardless of the circumstances involved, the outcome of your (or your child’s) juvenile case is not predetermined. There are steps you can take to influence the judge’s decision, and an experienced New Jersey juvenile defense attorney will be able to help you fight for a positive outcome at trial.
An experienced juvenile delinquency attorney can work with the local juvenile liaison officer and the lead juvenile Assistant Prosecutor to accomplish a diversion, or request that a “draft” complaint be filed, rather than a “final” complaint. Hiring a knowledgeable juvenile attorney as early as possible will give your child the best and earliest possible chance for a successful outcome. However, without a juvenile attorney fighting for your early, the system will go forward automatically, most likely not receiving input from you or your child which can help.
Under New Jersey law, there are two conditions for a juvenile to be tried as an adult: (i) the juvenile must be at least 15 years of age, and (ii) the alleged offense must be a serious offense. Offenses that can subject a juvenile to adult prosecution in New Jersey include:
Once you are taken into custody, the prosecutor’s office must file a “waiver” within 60 days in order to seek to have your case transferred to criminal court. After the prosecutor’s office files a waiver, the court will then consider a laundry list of factors in order to determine whether adult prosecution is warranted. Some of the key factors include:
Probably. If you are in college, being charged with a delinquent offense will most likely result in a referral to Judicial Affairs. Depending upon the severity (and accuracy) of the allegations against you, this could result in disciplinary action ranging from a reprimand to suspension or expulsion.
Under Section 2A:4A-60 of the New Jersey Code:
“Social, medical, psychological, legal and other records of the court and probation division, and records of law enforcement agencies, pertaining to juveniles charged as a delinquent or found to be part of a juvenile-family crisis, shall be strictly safeguarded from public inspection.”
Unfortunately, this “strict safeguarding” is not nearly as protective as one would like. For example, the law goes on to state that juvenile records may be made available to courts, probation officers, state and county prosecutors, juveniles’ parents and guardians, educational institutions, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children and Families, and various other individuals and agencies. Additionally, the law affords no protection for:
As a result, you are right to be concerned about the privacy of your juvenile record. You may be eligible to have your juvenile record sealed if:
Yes. However, similar to seeking to have your record sealed, there are strict conditions on filing for expungement of a juvenile record in New Jersey as well. Your eligibility for expungement will depend upon factors including:
Importantly, under Section 2C:52-2, certain juvenile offenses are not eligible for expungement.
The goal of the juvenile justice system is “rehabilitation” not “punishment.” However, since juveniles do break the law, and people are victimized, the juvenile justice system is very concerned with maintaining public safety. The maximum sentence in Juvenile Court is four (4) years in a State Juvenile facility. However, the most juveniles never see the inside of a jail cell. A skilled juvenile attorney negotiate a “non-jail” probationary sentence and in the right circumstances, even a juvenile who is found guilty can have his case dismissed after a period of time. Attorneys who a familiar with Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings know the most effective ways to achieve the best outcome for your child.
If you or your child is facing criminal charges in New Jersey, it is imperative that you seek legal help right away. Our New Jersey juvenile defense lawyers are here to help, and we can take action to protect you or your child immediately if necessary. To get started with a confidential initial consultation, call 877-435-6371, or tell us how to reach you online and a juvenile attorney will be in touch as soon as possible.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.