Case Studies: Juvenile Offenses


Middle School Student Avoids Juvenile Delinquency Finding

The parents of a seventh-grade student at a suburban New Jersey middle school retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after local authorities charged the student in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. Our client was an energetic student whom school staff admitted difficulty in managing his behavior. The parents knew that their student's behavior was developmental, not a moral or character issue, because of the similar pattern of development of our client's older brothers. On this after-school occasion, our client had reentered the building to overturn hallway trash cans, write in chalk on the hall's walls, and remove materials from student lockers onto the hallway floor. School officials alleged that he had "trashed" the hallway, which they regarded as a last delinquent act that they could no longer tolerate. The parents instead regarded it as a last harmless act to celebrate the school year's end and to get a last bit of peer attention before leaving for the long summer break from school. The parents had already arranged for their student to clean up the hallway, his acts having left no damage whatsoever. Our presentation at the juvenile hearing highlighted that students often celebrated a school year's end by removing everything from their lockers, often ending up with a chaotic but harmless mess in the hallways. School officials and teachers testifying at the hearing acknowledged that practice. Our cross-examinations also elicited substantial support for our client's good character and acknowledgment that he behaved largely as his older brothers had. The juvenile judge dismissed the charges.

High School Freshman Successfully Avoids Gang-Related Juvenile Charges

The parents, both professionals, of a high school freshman at an urban New Jersey high school, retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after authorities charged their student with gang-related juvenile delinquency crimes. The authorities alleged that our client, just fourteen years old at the time, had fallen in with older teenagers who ran a gang involving drugs and prostitution crime. The authorities had prosecuted the gang's members in adult criminal proceedings and juvenile proceedings several times in recent years without succeeding in disrupting the gang's operation. Believing that urban and social conditions would continue to foster gang activities, authorities had taken a new approach of trying to remove younger youth from entering gang life before gang activities hardened their moral and social development. Recognizing this enforcement strategy, we recommended to the parents and our client that we implement a holistic assessment of our client's physical, mental, emotional, and social development, and academic progress, with plans to support and remediate that development and progress as appropriate. The parents also agreed to parental counseling and training related to youth gang participation. Juvenile authorities supported and accommodated these actions, allowing our client to continue in school while living at home under his parents' supervision. Authorities abandoned the juvenile delinquency charges after our client had remained in school and out of trouble for an extended period while showing significant social and academic gains.

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