I am passionate about defending juveniles against criminal and delinquency charges. There is an unfortunate misconception among the general public and even some attorneys that juvenile arrest convictions don’t matter.
This line of thinking usually ends with the conclusion that juvenile records are sealed and can never be accessed, therefore mounting a meaningful defense is unnecessary. I could not disagree more with this assessment.
While juvenile records are not accessible to the public at large, they can be asked about and accessed by certain parties including law enforcement, judges, bar examiners, and the military. A finding of delinquency made against a juvenile may be considered by these parties.
For example, bar exam applications do ask about a juvenile record. Any false statement made on the bar application can be grounds for denial, and a juvenile record may be considered by bar examiners when making a determination of good moral character and fitness to practice law. The military can also take these matters into consideration when deciding whether to accept an applicant and whether to issue security clearances.
A prior juvenile record can also lead to increased exposure not only in future juvenile delinquency proceedings, but also in adult criminal court. For example, the first time offender program available in Superior Court known as Pre-Trial intervention (“PTI”) can be made unavailable to an applicant who has had supervisory treatment like probation in the past, even if this occurred while the applicant was a juvenile.
These are just a few reasons why I take juvenile cases very seriously. If your child has been charged with an offense or if police want to question him or her, give us a call to make sure they receive the proper defense that they are entitled to.
It has to be remembered that the focus of the juvenile justice system is supposed to be on rehabilitating the juvenile rather than punishing them. “Rehabilitation” does not necessarily mean that from drugs. Juveniles can also exhibit pure behavioral problems or suffer from known or un-diagnosed psychiatric issues.
Not only is rehabilitation important to help the juvenile get on the right track and avoid future legal issues, but it is also an important component of defending the case and presenting the juvenile in a favorable way to the Family Court. It is because of this that the first issue I try to tackle with the client’s family is to make sure the juvenile receives all the professional help they need at the outset.
The next step is conducting our own investigation into what occurred. This can be as simple as speaking with the juvenile him or herself and reaching out to the investigating officers. Formal discovery requests are also sent the prosecutor’s office so all the evidence can be obtained and analyzed. In more complicated cases it is sometimes advisable to also retain the services of an independent investigator.
After obtaining the information and evidence we need to prepare, all possible legal defenses and options will be explored. Pre-trial motions may be appropriate in cases where police searched or seized evidence or obtained statements from the juvenile. A motion is a legal maneuver that asks the court to exclude or throw out evidence based on improper investigatory techniques or other reason. The purpose of pre-trial rehabilitation, investigation, analysis of evidence and motion practice is to put the family in a position of strength when heading into plea negotiations and trial.
While most juvenile cases are resolved before trial as in adult court, a juvenile does have the right to take their case to trial. In juvenile court, generally the more serious the charges, the more likely the case will head to trial. Trials in the juvenile court are held before a Family Court Judge of the Superior Court, not a jury. A juvenile also has the right to appeal to the Appellate Division within 45 days of the entry of order of adjudication.
Call us anytime to speak with an experienced juvenile delinquency lawyer. We will work hard to try and keep your child out of a juvenile detention center but they may be placed there while we await trial. Because of the emergent nature of arrests and police involvement in your life, I try to make myself available to families in crisis 24/7. You may not be able to choose the time, place, and circumstances of the incident, but choosing the right attorney can absolutely mean the difference in your child’s future.
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