Juvenile criminal proceedings in New Jersey are different than those held for adults accused of crimes. Convictions, for example, are expressed in terms of the juvenile being “adjudicated delinquent,” not in terms of them being “convicted” of a misdemeanor or a felony. Charges are expressed as what the charge would have been had the acts been committed by an adult. Efforts are made to provide opportunities for juvenile offenders to rehabilitate themselves, as opposed to placing them in custody and punishing them as though they were adults.
Juveniles are Citizens and Have Rights When Detained
Despite these differences, when a juvenile is arrested – or “taken into custody,” to be more precise – for committing a crime, they have similar rights to counsel as do adults who are arrested. The New Jersey Supreme Court reaffirmed this several years ago when they ruled that “police should advise juveniles in custody of their Miranda rights” and that they should do so “in the presence of a parent or legal guardian – before the police question, or a parent speaks with, the juvenile.”
This means that juveniles do have the right to an attorney when they are taken into custody. Police should advise them of that right (give them the “Miranda warning”), preferably with the juvenile's parent or guardian present so that they can help the juvenile understand what their rights are. All of this should happen before the police question the juvenile, and if the police fail to follow this procedure, they risk not being able to use anything they learn from questioning the juvenile in a future court proceeding.
Juveniles Have the Right to Counsel at Court Hearings
New Jersey law also specifically gives juveniles the right to an attorney in court proceedings. In a court proceeding that could result in the juvenile's “institutional commitment,” the juvenile has the right to counsel “at every critical stage in the proceeding.”
In addition, in “every court proceeding in a delinquency case,” the juvenile shall not be allowed to waive any rights until they are “in the presence of and after consultation with counsel.” Further, parents of a juvenile who has the mental capacity to understand what is going on are not allowed to waive rights on the juvenile's behalf.
What to Do if Your Child is Taken Into Custody
If your child is taken into custody by police, it's going to feel and sound very much like they've been arrested. You will need to do everything you can to be with your child as soon as possible wherever they are being held by police. You also should contact an attorney who has experience representing juveniles accused of criminal behavior.
Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team have that experience. They have been helping juveniles and their families protect the rights of juveniles in New Jersey for many years. They understand how the juvenile justice process works in New Jersey, and they can help you and your child understand the charges against them, negotiate the court process, and protect their rights. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can make all the difference in how your child comes out of what can be a very stressful and upsetting situation for your entire family.
If your child is facing police questioning or a juvenile court proceeding in New Jersey, don't delay – call Joseph D. Lento today at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation using the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team's online contact form.