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New Jersey Juvenile Lawyer

New Jersey Juvenile Defense Lawyers

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., we also help our clients and their families take advantage of services and programs that can:

  • Aid in the defense of juvenile charges in Family Court; and,
  • Minimize the risk of recidivism and future run-ins with law enforcement.

Common Charges in Juvenile Offender Cases

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:

  • Drug Possession and Drug Use – New Jersey law severely punishes individuals found guilty of possessing and using all types of illegal drugs. This includes (but is not limited to) marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, acid and PCP. Possessing or using a prescription medication dispensed to someone else can also lead to criminal charges in New Jersey.
  • Underage Drinking and Driving (or a “Zero Tolerance” DUI) – New Jersey has a “zero tolerance” law for underage drinking and driving. If you are a minor and you blow above 0.00 on the breathalyzer after being stopped by the police, you can be taken into custody and charged with driving under the influence (DUI).
  • Shoplifting and Other Theft Offenses – Accusations of shoplifting, robbery, burglary and other theft offenses result in many young individuals’ first interaction with New Jersey’s juvenile justice system. There are potential defenses to each of these charges, and our attorneys can use the law to protect you or your child to the greatest extent possible.
  • Trespassing and Vandalism – Trespassing and vandalism are common charges in juvenile proceedings as well. Here too, alleged juvenile offenders can potentially have a variety of different defenses depending upon the circumstances involved, and avoiding unnecessary consequences requires the legal advice and representation of an experienced juvenile attorney.
  • Computer and Internet-Related Offenses – Hacking, identity theft, credit card fraud, stalking, bullying, harassment and other types of computer and Internet-related charges can lead to severe consequences for teen offenders. We have attorneys who handle these types of cases, and we can use our experience to help protect you or your child.
  • Campus Sex Crimes and Other Forms of Sexual Assault – Sexual assault allegations can follow you for the rest of your life. We provide vigorous defense representation for minors charged with campus sex crimes and other sexual offenses, and we will do everything in our power to minimize the long-term consequences of your accuser’s allegations.

Understanding the Juvenile Justice Process in New Jersey

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:

1. Facing Charges for Juvenile “Delinquency”

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.”

2.  Being Taken into Custody and Held in Detention

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.

3. Standing Trial Before a Family Court Judge

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.

4. Facing Sentencing Based Upon Your “Best Interests”

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.”

5. Serving Detention, Probation, Community Service and Other Forms of Sentencing

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 juvenile defense attorney will be able to help you fight for a positive outcome at trial.

Answers to Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs): Defending Against Juvenile Charges in New Jersey

Q: When can a juvenile be charged as an adult in New Jersey?

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:

  • Aggravated arson
  • Carjacking
  • Criminal homicide
  • First-degree robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Second-degree aggravated assault
  • Serious drug-related offenses
  • Sexual assault (or aggravated sexual assault)
  • Unlawful firearm possession

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:

  • The juvenile’s age, maturity and mental development
  • The juvenile’s delinquency record and prior involvement with child welfare (if any)
  • The nature and seriousness of the alleged offense
  • The circumstances surrounding the alleged offense
  • The juvenile’s likely response to rehabilitation efforts and the Family Court’s ability to impose an adequate sentence
  • Any potential danger to the public resulting from the juvenile’s release

Q: Will I have to deal with Judicial Affairs at school if I have been charged with a delinquent offense?

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.

Q: Can I have my juvenile record sealed in New Jersey?

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:

  • Delinquent offenses which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime of the first, second or third degree;
  • Aggravated assault; and,
  • Destruction or damage to property to an extent of more than $500.00.

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:

  • It has been at least two years since you were released from custody or probation;
  • You have not been convicted of a crime or adjudicated delinquent for a subsequent offense in the past two years; and,
  • You are not currently facing juvenile or criminal charges.

Q: Are juvenile offenses eligible for expungement in New Jersey?

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:

  • Whether you are simply taken into custody or you were adjudicated delinquent;
  • Whether your adjudication was for a juvenile offense that would constitute a disorderly persons offense or a crime in adult criminal court;
  • The amount of time that has passed since your adjudication; and,
  • Whether you have subsequently been taken into custody, arrested, adjudicated delinquent or found guilty of a criminal offense.

Importantly, under Section 2C:52-2, certain juvenile offenses are not eligible for expungement.

Speak With a New Jersey Juvenile Defense Lawyer in Confidence

If you or your child is facing criminal charges in New Jersey, it is imperative that you seek legal help right away. Our 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 609-281-8607, or tell us how to reach you online and we will be in touch as soon as possible. 

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Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

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