New Jersey Juvenile Criminal Lawyer
Juvenile Offense Lawyers Serving Clients Throughout The State
If your child was arrested for a criminal offense, it is essential that you understand some fundamental points about juvenile charges and how they are handled in New Jersey. While the juvenile justice system is more focused on rehabilitation and fostering responsibility, this does not mean that the consequences of a conviction are minor. The risks to person and property posed by a juvenile can be just as significant as with adults. In addition, the rate of juvenile recidivism—or, the juvenile reverting back to criminal behavior—are also relatively high, according to a report from the State of New Jersey and the Juvenile Justice Commission. The facts in the report suggest that rehabilitation methods may not always be favored over sentences that aim to punish the young offender. Indeed, recidivism rates for juvenile offenders are not significantly lower than those for adult offenders.
As such, it is extremely important to have an experienced New Jersey juvenile defense attorney on your side to assist with your child’s defense. In fact, unless the case is a relatively minor matter that has been referred to Juvenile Conference Committee, you are required as a parent or guardian to hire a lawyer for your child. The lawyers at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are here to serve you in this role. Our team has over a century of combined experience defending juveniles charged with crime or disorderly persons offense in the state. Several attorneys have also served as prosecutors in New Jersey learning just how things operate from the opposite perspective. For an immediate free consultation, contact our firm anytime 24/7 at 877-450-8301.
Common New Jersey Juvenile Offenses
Data from the NJ Office of the Attorney General and the Juvenile Justice Commission shows that currently, the state of New Jersey more than 350 juveniles who have been sentenced and are imprisoned or on probation. Of the juveniles sentenced, 192 currently are in aftercare programs, aimed at reintegrating those juvenile offenders. Of the total offenders sentenced—to prison, probation, or aftercare—only about one-third have been assigned to aftercare programs. The majority of the offenders listed in all categories are African American (more than 73 percent), and are male (nearly 95 percent). These statistics also are reflected in the State’s report on recidivism rates among youth offenders. It is important to understand the elements of many of the crimes for which these offenders have been convicted, and ultimately to consider ways in which experienced counsel can help to build a strong defense in your child’s case.
What are some of the most commonly charged juvenile offenses in New Jersey? Under New Jersey law, juveniles are arrested for a variety of crimes with the more common varieties being assault crimes, drug possession, underage DUI/DWI, and criminal mischief. What do these crimes look like in practice?
A juvenile may be guilty of an assault when a juvenile attempts to cause, or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person, or when a juvenile attempts to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. How might one of these scenarios occur? For instance, let us imagine that Juvenile A shows up at the home of Person B and is carrying a baseball bat. Juvenile A angrily yells at Person B and shows Person B the baseball bat. In this scenario, it looks like Juvenile A is attempting to put Person B in imminent fear of bodily injury. As such, this may be charged as a simple or an aggravated assault.
What about drug possession? Generally speaking, drug possession can be both “actual” and “constructive.” Most juvenile drug possession cases involve actual possession (since many juveniles do not own property where others are storing drugs, and many juveniles do not have control over certain property where another person may keep controlled substances). To have actual possession, the juvenile simply has drugs in his possession in some capacity. For instance, a juvenile driver might be stopped for a traffic infraction, and the law enforcement officer might discover, in the course of a search, that the juvenile had marijuana in his pocket. Keep in mind that such a scenario may allow a juvenile defendant to argue, as a defense, that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because the law enforcement officer did not have probable cause to conduct a search. For more information regarding juvenile drug possession charges click here.
How about an underage DUI/DWI? These charges are relatively straightforward. New Jersey law makes clear that any juvenile caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 or higher can be arrested for and charged with an underage DUI/DWI. In this instant, the legal drinking age is 21, so a juvenile is anyone under the age of 21. Generally speaking, any consumption of alcohol by a juvenile is illegal unless a specific exception applies. If you would like addition information on underage DWI read more.
Criminal mischief is another common juvenile offense. Under N.J.S.A. Section 2C:17-3, a juvenile can be guilty of criminal mischief if he or she purposely or knowingly damages the tangible property of another part of recklessly or negligently damages property through the use of fire or explosives. Many of us know criminal mischief as vandalism, and given that vandalism typically involves the defacing of property—or, damage to that property—any act in which a juvenile uses spray paint or other materials to deface a home or vehicle may be considered criminal mischief. Additional information on this subject can be found at criminal mischief charges.
Difference Between the Juvenile Justice System and the Adult Criminal Justice System
Generally speaking, the Juvenile Criminal Justice System is focused more on restorative justice—or rehabilitation offenders—than is the Adult Criminal Justice System in our state, which tends to focus more on retributive justice, or punishing convicted offenders. Given that rehabilitation is a goal of the Juvenile Criminal Justice System, judges may be more likely to impose sentences that focus on the young offender’s ability to recognize the harms of the crime committed, to allow that young offender to re-enter society with the possibility of a crime-free future, and ultimately to deter the minor from engaging in criminal behavior at a later point in time. Rehabilitative programs within the Juvenile Criminal Justice System typically are described in New Jersey as “aftercare” programs.
There are also other distinctions between the two systems. Most notably, while adults have the right to a jury trial, a juvenile offender does not have this right. Instead, juvenile offenders can only have a bench trial, which is a term to describe a trial in which a judge hears the case and makes the final decision about the defendant’s guilty (instead of a jury).
Requirements for a Hearing and Hiring Counsel in New Jersey
Unlike the Adult Criminal Justice System, trials involving juveniles—regardless of the crime at issue—will be heard in the Family Court system. There is no entitlement to a jury with all issues decided by the judge presiding over the Juvenile Part.
Your child is also required to have an attorney. According to a pamphlet from the New Jersey Courts, “in all formal court hearings before a judge,” a juvenile offender absolutely must have a lawyer. The state recognizes this part of the proceeding as a “counsel-mandatory or formal court hearing.” In the event that your family cannot afford to hire an attorney for your child, the court will determine whether the child is eligible to receive the services of a public defender.
Understanding the Different Types of Juvenile Offenses
The New Jersey Criminal Code contains hundreds of individual criminal offenses. As previously stated, some charges arise more often than others and we have attempted to provide specific resources on those violations. The NJ Juvenile Attorneys at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have provided detailed discussions on this site regarding those subjects previously set forth and:
- Juvenile simple assault;
- Juvenile aggravated assault;
- Juvenile drug distribution;
- Juvenile shoplifting;
- Juvenile trespassing;
- Juvenile burglary; and
- Juvenile robbery.
If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime, it is imperative that you reach out to an aggressive Morris County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Grading of Juvenile Charges
Since the Juvenile Criminal Justice System differs from the Adult Criminal Justice System in New Jersey, the charges and penalties upon conviction look somewhat different. Generally speaking, the crimes that a juvenile is charged with can fall into the same categories as those for adult offenders, including:
- 1st-degree felony offense;
- 2nd-degree felony offense;
- 3rd-degree felony offense;
- 4th-degree felony offense; and
- Disorderly persons (misdemeanor) offense.
Like adult penalties, upon conviction a juvenile offender can receive a sentence within the guidelines, which can include a period of imprisonment and a substantial monetary fine. However, as the New Jersey Courts pamphlet highlights, the judge in a Family Court matter has discretion in sentencing a juvenile offender, and can impose penalties that aim to rehabilitate the defendant and to deter future criminal activity. Some of those penalties or consequences, according to the pamphlet, include but are not limited to:
- Adjourned disposition;
- Required community service;
- Diversionary program;
- Monetary fines;
- Period of probation;
- Release of the juvenile to a parent or guardian;
- Required parental involvement in the juvenile’s rehabilitation;
- Treatment for mental health issues, substance abuse, and/or alcoholism;
- Restitution (requiring the juvenile to provide compensation for damage s/he caused);
- Suspension of a juvenile’s driver’s license;
- Work, academic, and/or vocational programs; and
The consequences for a juvenile offense vary depending upon the severity of the crime and whether the juvenile was a first-time offender. It is important to note, however, that some criminal offenses have what are known as “mandatory dispositions,” or penalties that the court must impose based on the crime. Some drug offenses, for instance, have mandatory dispositions.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey Juvenile Defense Attorney As Soon As Possible
Has your child been charged with a crime? It is important to seek assistance from an experienced New Jersey juvenile crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall to learn more about how we assist in building strong juvenile defenses for clients throughout NJ.