Most adults in New Jersey can likely think back to their teen years and recall a time or two that they did or said something that they later regretted. Growing up, we all make mistakes and, unfortunately for some young teens, those errors in judgment can end up having serious and far-reaching consequences.
If you are the parent of a son or daughter who is accused of any crime, including a property, drug or violent crime; it’s important that you understand what the charges mean, the possible corresponding penalties and your child’s options.
New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice System: What You Need To Know
If your minor-aged child is accused of being delinquent or committing a crime, a complaint against your child is filed and reviewed to determine what should happen next. Depending on the nature of the alleged crime, your child may be released into your custody or may be detained in a juvenile detention center.
A child may be detained, taken into custody and held in a juvenile facility based on the following: nature of the offense, the need to protect society, a past record of adjudication of delinquency, a recent or repetitive failure to appear at court proceedings, and/or a failure to remain where placed by the court or court intake services.
If your child is detained, a detention or probable cause hearing is scheduled at which time you and your child can review the complaint and ask questions. At this hearing, the court will decide whether to release a juvenile into the custody of a parent or whether the child should remain detained. Unlike adult offenders, juvenile offenders cannot be released on bail. Therefore, if your child is not released into your custody, he or she will likely remain detained until the case is decided.
Factors That May Affect Your Child’s Case And Outcome
- Nature of offense
- Age at time of offense
- History of prior offenses
- Child’s mental, physical and emotional state and health
- Substance abuse issues
- Behavioral patterns at home and school
Possible Penalties For Juvenile Offenses
- Participation in counseling or family therapy sessions
- Fines and restitution
- Community service
- Ordered to a residential treatment
- Placement in a secure juvenile detention facility
If a complaint is filed against your child, depending on the nature and seriousness of the offense, age of your child, prior record and willingness of the parties to cooperate, the case can be handled in several different ways. For example, the Court could decide to divert the charges to an informal court, Juvenile Conference Committee or Intake Service Conference. The benefit of diversion is upon successful completion of any of the above programs, the juvenile complaint is dismissed. Important to note, that not all cases are diverted to informal court, and charges that are serious in nature will most likely be placed on a formal court calendar and heard before a Superior Court Judge.
Being a teenager can be a difficult and confusing time. For teens who encounter problems with the law; the focus should be on rehabilitation, building confidence and reinforcing positive behaviors. Too often, however, juveniles who have run-ins with the law continue to experience difficulties into their adult years. To ensure that your child’s rights are protected, it’s important to obtain assistance from a criminal defense attorney who can answer your questions, provide options and advocate for your child.