As a parent, it's normal to want to protect your child from anything that could potentially harm them. Among the worst of those harms could be an adult criminal charge for a crime your child allegedly committed when still a minor. Consider here how New Jersey law treats those cases, after first confirming why you'd rather have your child face only a juvenile proceeding.
Better a Juvenile than Adult Proceeding
New Jersey's criminal justice system generally treats minors, or juveniles, more leniently and with greater protections than adults. New Jersey Statute 2A:4A-21a-b declares the juvenile justice system's intent to:
- preserve family unity whenever possible,
- pursue the wholesome mental and physical development of juveniles,
- remove delinquent juveniles from certain statutory consequences of criminal behavior, and
- substitute a rehabilitative program of care and supervision.
New Jersey's juvenile justice system pursues these ends in several ways. New Jersey law authorizes police or a family crisis intervention unit to divert the delinquent juvenile out of the system and back to the parents, while referring the family to agency services. If a juvenile case makes it to court, New Jersey law authorizes juvenile conference committees and intake service conferences to divert first and second offenders on minor charges. New Jersey law also secures detained juveniles in separate facilities away from adults who might harm them. Generally, you'd far rather have your child treated as a juvenile than an adult in any criminal proceeding.
Waiver from Juvenile to Adult Court
What, though, if your child turns fifteen years old before the juvenile court has adjudicated the matter? Since some recent law reforms, New Jersey will not try a minor as an adult unless the minor is at least fifteen years old, no matter the seriousness of the charge. That's the good news.
But once your child turns age fifteen, New Jersey law permits the prosecution to file a motion in the Superior Court's Family Division to send the juvenile to adult court to face the full criminal charge. That means that a delay in your child's juvenile proceeding until your child has turned age fifteen could potentially result in a waiver to adult court.
Fortunately, though, the same law reforms that raised such waivers to only defendants age fifteen or older also limited the crimes that the prosecution can seek to send to adult court. Your child may face waiver to adult court only if at least fifteen years old and charged with these crimes: criminal homicide not including auto deaths; criminal liability for drug-induced deaths; robbery in the first degree; carjacking; sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault; second degree aggravated assault; kidnapping; aggravated arson; certain firearm possession for unlawful purposes; narcotics trafficking network leadership; operating a CDS production facility; certain drug offenses while possessing weapons; and attempts or conspiracies to commit these offenses.
Retain an Experienced Attorney
There's a huge difference between getting charged with a crime as an adult versus getting charged as a minor. You need an experienced attorney on your side who will be able to provide your child with the best possible defense.
Joseph D. Lento and the team at the Lento Law Firm have years of experience defending young people facing criminal charges. They can help you figure out the next steps so that your family has the best chance of success.
Contact Joseph Lento and the rest of the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. Your child's future depends on it.