Will My Child Be Charged as an Adult?
Jersey City & Freehold Attorneys serving Essex, Hudson, Monmouth County, and Nearby NJ Areas
In New Jersey, a juvenile is defined as “any individual who is under the age of eighteen years.” Juveniles are charged with committing a delinquent act when a complaint is filed against them for an act that, as an adult, would constitute a crime or that violates a penal statute or regulation. All teenagers in New Jersey are required to have legal representation if charged with delinquency.
Facing charges involving a juvenile offense can be frightening, but the situation is far from hopeless. The juvenile courts focus on rehabilitation and education far more than adult courts, which place a higher priority on punishment. New Jersey does not consider juvenile delinquents to be criminals and does not impose civil disabilities that would otherwise be present for a criminal conviction.
The state does not use the term “conviction” if a teenager is found to have committed the offense but instead “delinquency,” and issues far more lenient sentences than would adult courts. Additionally, nearly half of all juvenile court cases are processed on an informal basis and heard before a Juvenile Conference Committee as opposed to a formal court.
Understanding the Juvenile Judicial Process in New Jersey
If the offense is more serious then a complaint may be filed in the Family Court. But keep in mind these courts are structured to meet the special needs of young people: there are no juries and there are strict rules about quickly releasing minors to their parents.
Cases in Family Court are usually settled by plea-bargain and result in fines, community service, required attendance of counseling or a treatment program, probation, or detention in Juvenile Hall. Once again, these requirements are intended to rehabilitate the teenagers, not make them miserable.
In some instances, such as for a murder charge, the case is transferred from juvenile court to adult court. For a transfer the child must be at least 14 years old when they committed the act of delinquency and the nature and circumstances of the charge and the juvenile’s prior record demand an adult trial. The juvenile can oppose transfer and keep jurisdiction over the case in family court if they show the probability of rehabilitation before turning 19 outweighs the risks of not charging the juvenile as an adult.
Free Consultation With an Experienced NJ Juvenile Defense Attorney
Children in juvenile court matters have many of the same rights as adults, including the right to remain silent, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to an attorney. It is important to understand the full extent of your rights while under investigation and before entering court. Our attorneys will take the time to review your rights and options and aggressively assert your rights at every stage in the juvenile criminal process. Where available or when necessary, we will seek rehabilitation over incarceration for any minor.
Contact Clark & Clark by phone at 732-303-7857 or online for a free consultation with an experienced criminal jury trial and juvenile crimes defense lawyer in New Jersey. We offer aggressive advocacy focused on obtaining positive results in your case.
We are experienced in the defense of juvenile crimes, including: