Those under the age of 18 that are alleged to have committed criminal offenses are treated distinctly from adults. Crimes that are committed by youths are considered actions of juvenile delinquency. New Jersey statute does not specify any limitations relating to a minimum age requirement for facing legal consequences for potential acts of delinquency. As of February, state data shows that a total of 1,516 juvenile offenses had been committed thus far in 2019.
The Evolution of Goals and Societal Principles in Juvenile Justice
The overall mission of the juvenile justice system in New Jersey has followed the principles of the majority of U.S. jurisdictions in the last 25 years. Juvenile offenders are handled in a manner that has transitioned away from the “custody and control” approach often seen in the adult justice system. The goal is to provide care and treat juvenile offenders using a rehabilitative model that seeks to encourage youths to lead responsible and productive adult lives in the community. Incarcerating youths in secured correctional facilities is largely viewed as a “last resort” that is employed only when a juvenile offender is determined to be a danger to public safety.
New Jersey Juvenile Defense Lawyer
Are you a parent or guardian of a minor that is facing criminal allegations? It is possible that such criminal actions may have consequences that adversely impact your child's future. Often juvenile delinquency has longer-term ramifications impacting their education and opportunities for employment. Parents are strongly encouraged to consult with legal counsel in these matters. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience practicing within the realm of criminal law that specifically relates to juveniles.
Overview of Juvenile Delinquency in New Jersey
The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission was established in 1995 as part of the administration's goal of having a central authority. A minor is charged with delinquency when a signed complaint is made. Members of local law enforcement may take the youth into custody with probable cause. The minor may be released to a parent or guardian as the case is referred to the court. Juvenile Family Crisis Intervention Units (JFCIUs) are often used for case diversion. The JFCIU is a resource that addresses family problems on a short-term basis providing assistance to stabilize these situations.
Categories of N.J. Juvenile Offenses (2019)
Violations of Probation
Hearings for juvenile offenders may be held in Family Courts. When the juvenile is detained, a hearing must occur within a 24-hour period on business days. If needed, another hearing may be held in two business days to determine if probable cause exists. The minor will be released if probable cause is not found. An adjudicatory hearing is then held in the following days or weeks in front of a judge.
Courts are able to employ diversionary options for first-time and second-time offenders. Minor offenses are reviewed by committees composed of local residents that are court-appointed. Offenses that are more serious may be diverted to an Intake Service Conference held by members of the court.
Criteria for Juvenile Detention (2A:4A-34)
Whether or not an alleged offender remains in detention during pending matters is based on 2A:4A-34 guidelines. The juvenile system does not use bail or bonds as a means of increasing the likelihood that the offender will return for their court date. In most cases, the minor is released to their parents or guardian. The court must generally approve if the youth will remain detained. Those who have previously failed to appear for a hearing or those deemed a threat to public safety are the most likely to be detained. Crimes such as assault, sexual contact, or those involving weapons are among those that create safety concerns. Children may remain in court-designated custody if a parent or guardian is unable to be contacted or refuses to assume custody.
There are a host of alternative options to remaining in detention available at the discretion of the court such as:
- The release of minor to their parents or guardian with a written assertion they will return for a hearing
- Release based on the minor's assurance that they will return
- The minor may be placed with a custodial agency
- The release of the minor with stipulations or measures to better monitor and secure the child, such as placing them on house arrest. This is actually referred to as “home” detention.
- Other measures that the court deems reasonable
Right to Legal Counsel
Local juvenile cases are guided by Part V of the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of N.J. Local courts have some latitude in developing their own written procedures termed as court rules. State statute 2A:4A-39 explains that minors have a legal right to attorney representation in all matters that “may result” in placement in an institution. The courts must inform parents or guardians that the state will assign them an attorney if unable to afford one.
Major Juvenile Crimes
The New Jersey Real-Time News recently stated that gangs across the state are now largely composed of teenagers. Law enforcement says gang-related crimes are often committed by minors as young as 12-years-old. Camden County's Juvenile Unit is assigned with managing cases of serious crimes such as arson, drug trafficking, and homicide. They work closely with an Intelligence Services Unit that monitors gang activity to apprehend juveniles who demonstrate violent criminal behavior.
Expungement of Juvenile Delinquency Records
Many of those who have a history of juvenile offenses are eligible to have their records expunged. In the majority of cases, these records are eligible for expungement in five years. An expungement is an option only for those who have not had any subsequent criminal convictions.
Expungement for Young Drug Offenders (2C:52-5)
Those who were under the age of 21 when they committed a drug-related offense may be eligible to have those records expunged. A minimum of one year must have elapsed and the individual must not have been convicted of crimes since. This does not apply to offenses for selling (trafficking) drugs except when involving marijuana or hashish.
Juvenile Justice Resources Juvenile Justice Commission
PO Box 107
Trenton, NJ 08625-0107
Camden County Youth Detention Center
8 Woodbury-Turnersville Rd.
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Defense Attorney Represents Juveniles in New Jersey
The Lento Law Firm offers an aggressive defense for those facing allegations of juvenile delinquency. You deserve legal representation that understands the juvenile system and has a track record of delivering results. Contact us today for a case consultation at (888) 535-3686.