Will My Child Go to Jail or Juvenile Hall?
Jersey City & Freehold Attorneys serving Essex, Hudson, Monmouth County, and Nearby NJ Areas
My child has just been arrested – what is going to happen?
Once a teenager is arrested, the police must decide where to send the child – to the County Juvenile Hall, to a state program, or to the child’s parents. This decision is based on police evidence, confessions by the juvenile or statements from the victim, and whether the juvenile has prior infractions. Most minors are released to their parents; New Jersey law is strict on this issue, and the minor should only be detained if their release will adversely affect their health, safety or welfare.
Juvenile Delinquency Cases
The police will file a complaint of juvenile delinquency with the court. The clerk will give the complaint to the intake service, which then evaluates whether there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile has been delinquent.
Intake then recommends whether the complaint should be dismissed, diverted, or referred for court action. This decision is based on the seriousness of the offense, age of the minor, the minor’s history, potential for rehabilitation, and level of control the parents have over the child.
Less serious offenses from younger minors with no prior records are more likely to be dismissed or diverted. If diverted, then the juvenile will be referred to a juvenile conference committee or a juvenile-family intervention unit.
If the intake service recommends court action then a summons will be issued to the juvenile and his parents and they will appear before the Family Court. Remember, most juvenile cases are settled by plea-bargain without need for a trial – the juvenile will plead guilty to some of the offenses, and in return the prosecutor will request more lenient sentencing.
Jury Trial vs. Bench Trial in Juvenile Cases
In New Jersey, a juvenile does not face criminal conviction, but rather a juvenile adjudication of delinquency. Juveniles do not receive a trial by jury, but instead cases are decided by bench trial by the judge. The trial of a juvenile case is called an adjudication hearing; the judge hears the evidence and determines whether the teenager is delinquent. If the judge finds the child delinquent, then a dispositional hearing will be held to create a plan for rehabilitation.
The disposition plan may contain a variety of requirements, including but not limited to: counseling, fines community service, group home placement, and/or formal or informal probation. The length of the plan varies and may be for a few months or even perhaps a full year. In the more serious cases, the plan may include sending the juvenile to a detention center to serve their sentence.
Let Our Attorneys Help You, and Your Child
The first and most tangible step you can take to help your child is hiring an experienced attorney. The very first court notice in Family Court is a directive to the teenager and his family that they must hire an attorney to appear at the hearing, or apply for a public defender to handle the case. The court will not proceed with any case unless and until the teenager has representation. The juvenile court system is not the same as adult court and having an attorney who understands the differences and complexities will be vital in ensuring the best possible outcome for your child.
Contact Clark & Clark for a free consultation with an experienced criminal jury trial and juvenile crimes defense lawyer in Freehold, New Jersey. We offer aggressive advocacy focused on obtaining positive results in your case.
We are experienced in the defense of juvenile crimes, including: