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New Jersey Juvenile Lawyer : Juvenile Delinquency and Detention Centers

Juvenile Justice Reform Explained By Our Attorneys

For the first time in 30 years, the New Jersey Attorney General has updated the Juvenile Policies and Procedures for the Prosecution of Juvenile Delinquency. “Juvenile Delinquency” is a crime or offense committed by someone who is less than 18 years old.  There have been small changes over the years; such as updated fingerprinting and photographing guidance; updated arrest and detention policies through the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (“JDAI”); and, DNA collection.  This Newest Law Enforcement Directive (2020-12) represents the first major changes to juvenile justice in a generation.

Do you need to hire a New Jersey juvenile attorney? Is a child you know is under investigation? Is he/she about to be charged or has been charged with “juvenile delinquency?” Make sure that you hire an attorney who is knows the entire field of juvenile justice.  Attorneys who focus on criminal defense usually don’t know the ins-and outs of  the juvenile system.  An informed juvenile attorney from Helmer Legal can often achieve a faster and better outcome.

Since 1990, every police department has been required to have a juvenile officer.  However, as juvenile delinquency numbers have decreased over the past 30 years, many departments just assigned newer, younger patrolman to this important task. Inexperience and  lack-of-interest have resulted in negative consequences for juveniles. The new guidelines now require the designation of a “Juvenile Liaison Officer” in every police department who familiar with juvenile law, policy and procedure and who is also familiar with local resources to assist in diverting juveniles and their cases from the formal juvenile justice system.

Diversions from the Juvenile Justice System.

The AG Directive emphasizes that there is a preference in the juvenile system not to file juvenile delinquency complaints in some cases.   Record-keeping is now required to allow for of juveniles who are diverted from the formal juvenile justice system to “curbside warnings” and “stationhouse adjustments.” A Curbside warning is a “talking to” which takes place at the scene of a minor violation of the law where a police officer merely interacts with a juvenile in an informal way, making sure the juvenile understands the officer’s authority and reason for the action.  A “stationhouse adjustment” is  more formal and requires the police officer enforcing the law, to interact with the juvenile and his/her parent or guardian at the police department.  Any victim of the juvenile’s actions will also be involved.  As a result of a stationhouse adjustment a juvenile will enter into a written agreement, signed by him/herself, the parent/guardian and the police officer.  Conditions of this agreement can range from a letter of apology to drugabuse treatment.  Completion of the agreement means that no delinquency charges will be filed.

The “Juvenile Delinquency Complaint,” now and then.

The biggest change in juvenile justice involves how a formal delinquency complaint is signed and filed against a juvenile.  For more than 30 years, a juvenile complaint was simply a  paper form, filled in by hand, typewriter and later word processors. The complaint was given to a juvenile with a list of charges and their descriptions.  As of 2021, the entire process will now be computerized, just like the adult system.  This new process has some built in safe-guards for the juvenile’s protection; unfortunately,  whether or not these safeguards are used is up to the local police department and County Prosecutor. There is no way to challenge a delinquency case, merely because the appropriate procedure was not filed.

The AG guidelines suggests, but does not require, the use of “draft” juvenile complaints to be reviewed by an Assistant Prosecutor before filing of a “final” juvenile complaint.  However, in jurisdictions with large case-load, the use of draft complaints is expected to be limited or non-existent.

My son or daughter has already been charged with delinquency. What do I do now?

The Guidelines require a juvenile to be served with his/her complaint within five days of drafting of the complaint.  Only time will tell if local police departments and Prosecutor’s offices follow this instruction.  Juveniles can only prosecuted at the County Level, in Superior Court.  Juvenile cases cannot be handled in Municipal Court.  However, just because a formal complaint has been filed, it doesn’t mean that your child will see a judge.  A qualified and experienced Juvenile Delinquency Attorney can request the Prosecutor and the Court send your child’s case to a court approved diversionary program.  Two such programs are Juvenile Conference Committees (“JCC”) and Intake Service Conferences (“ISC”).  Both diversions have the same effect if they are successfully completed, a dismissal of the complaint!  Make sure your child’s attorney explores these important programs, before agreeing that your child’s case should go to Court.

If you feel that your attorney isn't doing all they can to help your child, be sure to contact Helmer Legal to get the representation your child deserves. 

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