New Jersey Juvenile Court Lawyer
Most parents feel a justifiable sense of panic when their child is accused of a crime. Help is available however. My office has represented many children and teenagers in New Jersey who have faced serious charges including drug possession, assault, eluding law enforcement officers, shoplifting, theft and other offenses. Call to speak with a New Jersey juvenile delinquency lawyer.
Consequences of Juvenile Charges in New Jersey
Children who are accused of criminal offenses (juvenile delinquency) in New Jersey face potentially life-altering consequences. While is is commonly heard that juvenile records are “sealed” once a child turns 18 years old. This is somewhat misleading. For example, if your child desires a career in law enforcement, the law, or government, even a juvenile record can affect career and training opportunities such as admission to a police academy or a state bar.
An individual’s complete criminal history, including as a juvenile, is made a part of that person’s record of arrests and prosecutions (“RAP”) sheet. A juvenile adjudication can also be relevant in determining eligibility into the pre-trial intervention program (“PTI”).
This can be critical in a situation where a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent and put on probation at, say, age 17 and then soon thereafter becomes an adult and is again facing criminal charges. It is therefore very important that your family consult with an experienced New Jersey juvenile defense attorney if your son or daughter is facing charges in a New Jersey Court.
New Jersey Juvenile Court System
Some juvenile’s cases are diverted from formal court proceedings by sending the child to what is known as a Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC). This can be a good opportunity, since it allows the child, their parents, and their attorney to sit in an informal setting with a panel of community members to resolve their case.
Other such diversionary programs include what is known as a “referee hearing.” These are typically held in the court house of your county of residence. This is more formal than the JCC hearings but still held before a judge and on the record. Personally, I have mixed feelings about these hearings. From my experience, I have seen judges take a one-size fits all approach during these hearings. Further, the same rights a juvenile would have just down the hallway in the Family Part are not really afforded to the juvenile in these referee hearings.
I have represented juveniles during these hearings. An attorney can ensure that your child is treated fairly and that participation in this hearing (which is voluntary depending on the juvenile’s age) is in your child’s best interests. If you are not happy with outcome of this hearing, you file an appeal, but this must be done immediately, unlike in other parts of the Superior Court where the time to appeal is 45 days. I have represented juvenile’s during these appeals and later at former proceedings after winning the appeal.
The next more formal proceeding is for your child to be scheduled for a “counsel-mandatory plea hearing.” This is akin to an arraignment in adult criminal court. You child must be represented by an attorney at this hearing. Here, a plea of guilty or not-guilty must be entered. The case will be prosecuted by the County Prosecutor’s Office.
Often, the prosecutors in the juvenile courts are relatively new to the office and can sometimes take very hard line. Your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to obtain a fair outcome to the case. If a fair agreement can not be reached, your child has the right to have a trial, where the State would have the burden to proof the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.