South Jersey Juvenile Crime Lawyers
Experienced NJ Defense Attorneys Protect Underage Defendants Charged with a Crime in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester County, NJ
It’s three a.m. You’re sleeping peacefully when you awake to the sound of your cell phone buzzing. You answer and can’t believe your ears as the voice on the other end identifies himself as a police officer. He says he has your son in custody — he’s been arrested. What do you do now?
New Jersey has special rules and laws that deal with minors who commit crimes. These laws can be quite complicated and confusing. The attorneys at Aydelotte & Scardella Law LLC can help you through this uncertain and stressful process.
Juvenile Crimes versus Adult Crimes
A juvenile is a person that is less than 18 years of age. And as you might expect, an adult is someone who is 18 years of age or older. But when violating New Jersey law, a juvenile will not be treated the same way as an adult.
For example, juveniles don’t commit crimes, they commit acts of delinquency. And how they are processed by the courts is outlined by the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice, N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-20.
Another major difference is that the juvenile court system focuses less on punishment and more on rehabilitation. This doesn’t mean traditional punishment is not possible, however. But it does mean that there will be a focus on getting the juvenile services such as counseling if he or she needs it.
Juveniles do not have the right to be tried by a jury. Instead, a judge will decide how the juvenile should be rehabilitated and punished. A judge in a juvenile proceeding will also have more leeway in how to tailor the juvenile’s punishment or rehabilitation.
Additionally, juveniles who have been detained and await trial may not be released on bail.
Finally, juveniles must be defended by an attorney in any formal legal proceeding. In adult criminal proceedings, adults may choose to defend themselves without an attorney’s help. Juveniles do not get to make this decision.
The Juvenile Delinquency Process in New Jersey
There are three main ways in which a juvenile’s case will be handled in New Jersey:
- Informal Court with a juvenile referee
- Formal Court with a Judge
Juvenile Diversion in New Jersey
Diversion in New Jersey can consist of either a Juvenile Conference Committee or an Intake Service Conference. During either of these proceedings, any recommendation that is made must be agreed to by the juvenile and his or her parents.
This recommendation must also be approved by a judge and cannot include confinement. The recommendation will be mostly rehabilitative and includes requirements such as community service, curfew, restitution or counseling evaluation.
If a juvenile completes these recommendations, the case will be dismissed. If the recommendations are not fully complied with, the case will go back to court before a judge.
Informal Court Before a Juvenile Referee
A juvenile referee will oversee a hearing where the referee will “try” the case by deciding what happened and if the juvenile will be determined to be delinquent or not.
The juvenile referee’s decision will consist of recommendations. As is the case with Diversion, the recommendations must be approved by a judge before they can be imposed.
Formal Court Before a Judge
Formal court consists of several hearings.
The first one is the plea hearing. This is where the juvenile admits or denies the charge(s). They will also receive discovery, or the evidence against them.
The case is then placed on an informal or formal calendar for the judge.
If on the informal calendar, an attorney for the juvenile is optional. If placed on the formal calendar, the juvenile must have an attorney representing them.
The second hearing is the fact-finding hearing. This is where both sides will present their case. Evidence will be presented to the court and witnesses will testify.
The third hearing is the adjudication hearing. This is where the judge provides his or her decision about the juvenile’s delinquency. Sometimes the adjudication hearing is combined with the fact-finding hearing.
If there is disagreement with the judge’s decision, an appeal may be filed.
If the juvenile admits to the charges or is found delinquent, then a disposition hearing is held. This is where the judge hands down the “sentence,” or disposition.
Depending on the situation, the judge may want more information about the juvenile before imposing a disposition. In this situation, the judge may request an evaluation of the juvenile. The disposition can include:
- Community service
- Participation in a work program
- Participation in a self-reliance program
- Mental health treatment
- Substance abuse treatment
Probation may last up to three years and will place the juvenile under the supervision of a probation officer. The judge will determine the exact conditions of probation. If these conditions are followed, probation could end early and the case may be deferred.
During this deferral, if the juvenile stays out of trouble and completes additional conditions imposed by the judge, then the case may be dismissed.
Are you a Juvenile Facing a Criminal Charge in Camden County, NJ?
An adjudication of delinquency as a juvenile has the potential to hinder a promising life even before it can begin. But don’t lose hope. There are a variety of legal options to consider that can protect your potential.
To get started, you’ll need to talk with a compassionate and experienced juvenile crime attorney. That’s why you need to contact us. There’s no cost for the initial consultation, so you have nothing to lose by speaking with us.
During this meeting, we’ll be able to assess your situation. From there, we can help you decide what the best choice is for you to protect your legal rights, and your future.
Frequently Asked Questions About New Jersey Juvenile Crimes
Yes and yes. Until you turn 18 years of age, your records are automatically sealed from the general public.
But once you turn 18, you can ask the court to expunge your juvenile record. This expungement process is largely the same as an adult trying to clear his or her adult record.
The following information lists out the adult and juvenile equivalent for commonly used terms in the New Jersey criminal court system.
– Adjudication of delinquency
– Diversion – Juvenile Conference Committee (aka: Intake Services Conference)
– Taking a juvenile into custody
– N/A (juveniles are charged without indictment)
– Secure facility, youth house, detention center or juvenile justice institution
– Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI)
– Jail, prison or incarceration