Juvenile Defense Lawyers in New Jersey
No parent can be blamed for feeling overwhelmed if they receive a call from the police telling them their child has been arrested for a juvenile criminal offense. However, it important to act promptly to protect your child’s rights — and potentially their freedom and future.
The best way to protect an underage child who has been arrested is to immediately engage a juvenile crime defense attorney experienced with New Jersey criminal and disorderly persons offenses. The attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have extensive experience handling juvenile matters, and deep knowledge of New Jersey juvenile law.
Our firm’s attorneys are former New Jersey prosecutors and public defenders who have spent decades dealing with juvenile cases in municipal and county courts across the state. We know exactly what must be done to protect your child, and can guide you through this difficult time.
We Handle the Full Range of Juvenile Offenses
If your child or teenager has been charged with a juvenile offense, it is critically important to seek the help of an attorney who has extensive knowledge of New Jersey juvenile law. Do not allow your child to answer any questions or be interviewed by police or investigators until an attorney is present.
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall represents juveniles accused of all types of crimes, including:
Theft crimes, such as shoplifting, auto theft, robbery, burglary, vandalism
Underage drinking and DUI/DWI
Sex Crimes, such as rape, statutory rape, sexual assault
Assault and threat crimes
All juveniles facing charges first go to Family Court, where they must be represented by a lawyer. There is no leeway for a parent or guardian to allow proceedings to move forward without a defense attorney.
Therefore, it is extremely important for an experienced defense lawyer to be engaged as soon as possible to represent your child. Our firm can work quickly to put appropriate information before the court and address any concerns of the Family Court and presiding judge to help ensure that your child is not unduly detained.
Public defenders are appointed for children when their parents and/or guardians are unable to hire an attorney to represent their child because of demonstrable indigency. However, an initial consultation with an experienced juvenile defense attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan Marshall is always free. Please take advantage of this opportunity if your child faces serious criminal charges. We want to help.
What Happens in a New Jersey Juvenile Offense Case?
When we hear from parents whose children have been arrested, it is often their family’s first brush with the law. We understand. No one would expect a parent to know precisely what to do if their child is arrested.
First, you need to know that the State of New Jersey would rather help your child than punish him or her. And we also want to make sure every decision made in the days ahead is to the benefit of your child and your family.
Juvenile cases in New Jersey involve alleged offenders under 18 years old, and begin in Family Court. In cases involving serious crimes, such as armed robbery, the prosecutor may ask the court to move the case to adult criminal court.
At the Law Offices of Jonathan Marshall, we want to make sure that every decision made in the days ahead is to the benefit of your child and your family.
The philosophy of the New Jersey Family Court regarding juveniles is focused on rehabilitation, including:
Preservation of the family insofar as possible for the care, development and protection of juveniles coming within the Court’s jurisdiction
Removing children committing delinquent criminal behavior and placing them in a program of supervision, care and rehabilitation
Securing care, guidance and control, preferably in their own home, of children coming within the jurisdiction of the court
Fostering the protection of the community, accountability for criminal conduct, and development of children as productive and responsible citizens
Will My Child Be Detained?
After some arrests, the Court will detain a child in a juvenile detention facility until he or she can be fully evaluated. A judge must decide whether the youth poses a risk to the community or is equipped to return home, to school and the community.
Each N.J. county has a juvenile detention facility for children who have been arrested and are to be detained. The facilities are known as Juvenile Detention Centers or Youth Detention Centers.
New Jersey does not detain juveniles in jails or prisons where adults are housed.
New Jersey law mandates that the Court can detain juveniles only if they are considered a danger to the community or if they are deemed a risk not to appear in court. When considering whether to detain a child, the Court will consider:
The seriousness of the alleged crime
The child’s prior criminal history
Any medical or psychological issues the child has
Information provided by police, third parties, and parents regarding the child’s problems
Any other information relevant to the child’s safety to himself or others.
In addition, some juveniles are detained post-disposition (post-sentencing) while awaiting program placement. Several counties have also developed a short-term commitment program, which serves as a sentencing option.
If a child is referred to detention upon arrest, a hearing is to be held within 24 hours. If a juvenile is remanded to detention at that hearing, the initial probable cause hearing and a second detention hearing are to be held within two court days. If probable cause is not found, the juvenile is released from detention pending an appearance before a judge.
A judge will reconsider the status of a detained juvenile at intervals of 14 and 21 court days.
Under New Jersey law, the Court may modify a juvenile’s sentence at any time, including in response to motions and applications for post-disposition relief made by the child’s attorney on his or her behalf.
Will my Child Have to go to Court?
Juvenile offenses are heard in the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, or Family Court. The Juvenile Part of the Family Division is conducted in accordance with a set of rules designed entirely for adjudication of juvenile cases. The focus of the system is to help, assist and rehabilitate a child rather than punish him.
The Family Court is required to hold timely hearings for juveniles charged as delinquents. If a police officer refers your child to be held in detention, a hearing is to be held within 24 hours. If a juvenile is remanded to detention, an initial probable cause hearing and second detention hearing are to be held within two court days. If probable cause is not found, the juvenile is released from detention.
Adjudicator hearings are heard in a closed court, with only people involved in the case including parents or guardians allowed to attend. All records associated with juvenile proceedings are confidential, including all social, medical, psychological, legal, probation, and law enforcement records.
The juvenile justice system has the ability to impose most of the same penalties as the “adult” criminal court, and certain statutory offenses carry specific punishments required by law. However, New Jersey’s Juvenile Code provides judges a wide array of dispositions in juvenile cases, and the disposition most commonly handed down is probation supervision.
A juvenile placed on probation is likely to be ordered to perform community service or pay financial restitution to the crime victim. Conditions of probation may also include undergoing counseling or entering a residential program.
Can my Child be Charged as an Adult?
A New Jersey prosecutor may seek a waiver to have a child age 15-17 tried in adult court if the child is facing a serious offense. Juveniles age 14 or older also may elect to have their cases waived to adult court. Children who are 14 years old or younger cannot be charged as an adult, regardless of the offense.
Once a waiver is approved, the juvenile is treated in the same manner as an adult. The juvenile can be held in an adult jail and, if found guilty, is subject to the same penalties as an adult. For those sentenced to a prison term, the sentence is likely served in an adult prison but in some instances may be in a juvenile facility.
Charges that may be transferred to adult court proceedings involve:
Criminal homicide, other than death by automobile
Strict liability for drug-induced death
First degree robbery
Aggravated sexual assault
Second degree aggravated assault
Possession of a firearm with a purpose to use it unlawfully against another person
Possession of a firearm while committing, attempting to commit or fleeing from aggravated assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, burglary or certain drug offenses
Leading a narcotics trafficking network
Maintaining and operating an illicit drug production facility
What Diversionary Programs are Available to Juveniles?
There are multiple opportunities for criminal charges against a juvenile to be “diverted” and not result in punishment handed down by a judge. In lieu of signing a delinquency complaint, the arresting police officer may release the juvenile to a responsible parent or guardian (with or without a reprimand and warning) or conduct a “station house adjustment.”
A station house adjustment is a formal warning available in minor crimes if the victim consents. The juvenile has to agree not to reoffend and the parent or guardian will be advised that if the juvenile commits a subsequent offense or does not comply with the terms of the agreement, a juvenile delinquency complaint may be filed against the juvenile. The juvenile and parent or guardian must sign a station house adjustment form.
After a delinquency complaint has been signed and filed with the court, Juvenile Conference Committees (JCCs) and Intake Service Conferences (ISCs) will review certain types of first and second offenses of a minor nature to determine whether diversion is appropriate.
These committees’ recommendations to a Family Court judge can persuade the judge to hand down a disposition of probation, which may include a variety of restrictions as well as requirements to participate in rehabilitative programs. New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice Commission offers a myriad of educational programs, day programs, specialized mental health services, residential facilities, secure care facilities, and transitional and re-entry services for children and youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
For juvenile charges that do not go through the JCC or ISC process, an experienced attorney representing a child or youth with a previously clean record may convince the judge that a disposition of probation that potentially includes entry into a suitable program is in their young client’s best interests.
A juvenile age 15-17 being tried in adult court for a first-time nonviolent offense may be allowed to enter Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or Drug Court, close-supervision probation programs intended for defendants who are ready to deal with substance abuse problems. If the young person completes all conditions of the intervention program, the charges will be dismissed.
PTI requires court supervision for 1 to 3 years and potentially includes psychological and/or drug and alcohol evaluations and completing rehabilitation, as well as random drug tests.
Drug Court requires frequent drug testing and completing a rehabilitation program, which is expected to include maintaining recovery through a continuing 12-step program. Participants must regularly appear before a judge to affirm continued good standing in the program.
Consequences of an Underage DUI in New Jersey
A person younger than 21 years old, the legal drinking age, can be found guilty of driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI) in New Jersey with any detectible amount of alcohol in their blood while behind the wheel or otherwise in control of a car. An underage driver whose BAC is .08% or more will be charged as an adult, which means facing much harsher penalties.
If convicted, the underage drinker’s driver’s license will be suspended for 30 to 90 days, at the judge’s discretion. If a teenager who does not have a license is convicted, he or she will be unable to get one for at least 30 and up to 90 days.
A person convicted of underage DWI in New Jersey must also:
Perform 15 to 30 days of community service
Complete 12 hours of classes and a substance use disorder assessment at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, plus pay associated fees.
Successfully complete alcoholism treatment (“rehab”) if recommended by the IDRC assessment.
If an underage drinker refuses a breath test after being arrested for underage DWI, he or she may face penalties of:
$300 to $500 fine; $600 to $1,000 if arrested in a school zone
7 to 12 months’ driver’s license suspension; 1 to 2 years if arrested in a school zone
12 hours of classes and a substance use disorder assessment at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center and associated fees
Successful completion of alcoholism treatment if recommended by the IDRC assessment
6 months to 1 year with an ignition interlock device on their vehicle – after license restoration
Fines and fees as for a first-offense DWI.
We Will Fight for Your Child’s Best Interests
If your child or teenager has been charged with a juvenile offense, it is critically important to work with an attorney who has extensive knowledge of New Jersey juvenile law.
Your child has rights, which must be protected, including the right to remain silent and not incriminate himself or herself. Your child should not answer any questions from police or other investigators until an attorney is present.
Attorneys from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall represent juveniles accused of all types of crimes in New Jersey, including but not limited to:
Theft crimes, including shoplifting, auto theft, robbery, burglary, vandalism
Sex crimes, such as rape, sexual assault, lewdness, indecent exposure
Violent crimes, including assault, threats, stalking, harassment
DWI/DUI and underage drinking
How We Can Protect Your Child Charged with a N.J. Juvenile Offense
As your child’s defense attorneys, our first task will be to, in consultation with you, help secure your child’s release or ensure he or she is properly detained if that is in their and your family’s best interests.
Then we will begin investigating the charges against your child, including determining whether there was police or prosecutorial misconduct, or there are flaws in the prosecution’s case. This may include such issues as:
Illegal arrest, including failure to advise of Miranda rights against self-incrimination
Illegal search and seizure, including illegally stopping a motor vehicle
Faulty suspect lineup
Racial, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, sexual orientation, age or other bias
Lack of credible witnesses
Faulty or fabricated testimony
Faulty forensic testing (particularly regarding DNA evidence or breath alcohol content testing)
It is not unusual after an investigation to find reasons to have juvenile offense charges reduced or dropped. For example, in alcohol- and drug-related cases associated with teenage parties or other large gatherings, the facts of the case are often unclear. In cases involving theft, simple assault and other interpersonal disputes, we may be able to reach out to the alleged victims (and often their parents) to make amends and restitution, which clears the way for dropping charges.
If we cannot have disorderly conduct charges against your child dismissed, we will advocate for your child in Family Court to seek the best resolution to the case available. If a guilty verdict is unavoidable, you child may be eligible for probation.
New Jersey’s Juvenile Supervision program offers underage offenders the opportunity to remain in their own community under the supervision of a probation officer who monitors their compliance with the rules and conditions imposed by the Family Court judge. These rules and conditions may include paying restitution and fines, achieving educational goals and, if applicable, completing alcohol or drug abuse treatment.
Sealing a Juvenile Record in New Jersey
A New Jersey juvenile record includes the court and police paperwork related to the juvenile’s arrest, complaint and disposition of the case. When a juvenile record is sealed, it means that the court and police paperwork related to the case are closed. No one will be allowed to look at them without a special court order.
In most cases, only police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, and court employees can access a juvenile’s record. However, a juvenile’s record may be available to the public if they were adjudicated for a crime of the first, second, or third degree; aggravated assault; or destruction or damage to property worth more than $500.
A juvenile offender may petition the Court to have their record sealed if:
Two years have passed since the last court order in the case (there was no supervision/probation or state custody) or two years have passed since they were released from supervision/probation or state custody.
The petitioner has not been convicted of a crime or disorderly persons offense or adjudicated delinquent in the two years prior to filing the request.
After a juvenile record is sealed, it can be unsealed if the individual is later adjudicated of a juvenile offense or convicted of a crime.
Once a juvenile’s record is sealed, the individual can act as if the offense never happened. There will be no obligation to acknowledge the contents of the juvenile record in interviews or applications for a job, college, technical school, trade program or when applying for housing.
The petition for having a criminal record sealed requires many documents pertaining to the case, its adjudication and requirements of the disposition. Our offices can help you gather this material and ensure that you submit a complete and accurate petition for sealing your juvenile records.
Meet with a New Jersey Juvenile Crime Defense Attorney Today
Of you minor-age child has been charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall to speak to an experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney as soon as possible. There are opportunities our dedicated attorneys can pursue to keep a criminal a conviction off of your child’s your record.
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