Juvenile Process for Domestic Violence

It can matter a lot to the outcome of a domestic violence proceeding whether the defendant is an adult or juvenile. New Jersey law generally treats juvenile defendants with significantly greater leniency in sentencing, liberty in restraint, and support in educational and rehabilitation services than adult defendants can expect. If you are a juvenile facing domestic violence charges, or your child is in that situation, then retain premier New Jersey criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm criminal defense team for an aggressive and effective defense. Attorney Lento is a master at handling New Jersey juvenile offenses for a winning defense.

Who Is a Juvenile

In New Jersey, a defendant remains a juvenile until turning age eighteen. New Jersey treats defendants as juveniles up to age eighteen unless the assigned judge determines to grant the prosecution a juvenile waiver to try the juvenile as an adult. In no case, however, may a New Jersey judge waive a juvenile into an adult proceeding if the juvenile is under age fifteen. The grounds that a judge may consider for waiving a juvenile at least fifteen years old into adult court include the seriousness of the crime, whether the offense was against a person, the juvenile's mental capacity, maturity, and criminal sophistication, prior delinquency, substance abuse, moral development, and danger to the public. Judges may waive juveniles into adult court only for certain crimes. Those crimes include several crimes that can form the basis for a domestic violence enhancement including homicide, sexual assault, and kidnapping.

Juvenile Process

As the above paragraph indicates, juveniles typically face only juvenile proceedings, not proceedings in adult court, for most domestic violence offenses. Juvenile proceedings occur in family court, not adult criminal court. The family court judge hearing the juvenile domestic violence case will decide that case on the judge's own without the presence of a jury. In contrast, adult court offers domestic violence defendants a jury trial. Juvenile proceedings have other important differences. Juveniles do not post bail for pretrial release. Instead, the family court judge determines whether to release the juvenile to parents or guardians, detain the juvenile in a juvenile detention center, or release the juvenile to an agency or with other monitoring conditions. Release to parents or guardians is the typical pre-hearing measure, except that such release would be far less likely if into the household where the juvenile's alleged domestic violence occurred. The family court judge will then hold the juvenile's adjudicatory hearing in the following days or weeks. Juvenile proceedings have many fewer of the safeguards than adult court criminal proceedings. But they also generally permit the juvenile greater freedoms and risk far less onerous results.

Juvenile Sentencing

Juvenile sentencing in domestic violence cases also differs markedly from adult sentencing. If the family court judge adjudicates the juvenile responsible for the alleged domestic violence, the judge may send the juvenile to the juvenile detention center but for significantly less maximum time. For instance, a third degree underlying criminal offense could result in three to five years of prison for an adult but only two years of detention for the juvenile. Second degree underlying offenses get a juvenile a maximum of three years but an adult up to five or ten years. Disorderly persons offenses are likely to get the juvenile little or no detention time. When determining the juvenile's actual sentence within those maximums, the family court judge considers the offense's severity, any injury the offense caused, the juvenile's threat to public safety, the juvenile's age and prior record, the juvenile's needs, the juvenile's family support, and the juvenile's other history.

Juvenile Domestic Violence

Surprising to some and disappointing to many, juveniles do commit domestic violence. Although domestic violence can take endless forms, juveniles typically only commit domestic violence in certain kinds of cases. The ordinary domestic violence case, if such a thing exists, involves adult intimate or household partners disputing fidelity, loyalty, finances, child rearing, and other adult concerns. Common juvenile domestic violence cases can also involve intimate partners, although in those cases the victim would also likely be an emancipated juvenile or a young adult. But more commonly, juvenile domestic violence involves criminal conduct directed toward the juvenile defendant's parent, custodial grandparent, adult or emancipated sibling, or other adult or emancipated household member. Juveniles can get angry, and they can get violent in their unrestrained anger and emotional lability. Adult attempts to discipline, correct, constrain, or control juveniles may be typical triggers for violent juvenile reactions. But juveniles can also respond violently to other real or perceived adult insults or offenses. Less common are cases in which the juvenile directs criminal conduct toward the other parent of the juvenile's child, although those cases also exist.

Defending Juvenile Domestic Violence Charges

Skilled and experienced juvenile defense attorney representation can be critical to the juvenile's favorable outcome of domestic violence charges. Strong defense representation is especially important at three stages of the family court's juvenile proceeding. The initial detention hearing, typically held within days of the juvenile's arrest, sets the course for whether the juvenile will have some liberty while awaiting adjudication. As the above factors for detention show, a juvenile facing domestic violence charges may especially need skilled defense representation to convince the family court judge to let the juvenile out of detention with only monitoring supervision. The fitness hearing to determine whether the judge should waive the juvenile to adult court for trial of domestic violence charges is an even more important stage, given its influence on the potential sentence. The juvenile's final adjudicatory hearing is also a critical stage insofar as it determines the length and conditions of the juvenile's detention, if any.

Premier Domestic Violence Defense Available

New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm criminal defense team are available for aggressive and effective defense of New Jersey domestic violence charges against juvenile and other defendants. Attorney Lento has substantial experience successfully defending juveniles in both family court and adult court. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now to retain attorney Lento for juvenile domestic violence defense in either juvenile proceedings or adult court.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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