Juvenile Referees and Informal Court in New Jersey

If your child has been accused of breaking the law and is in New Jersey’s juvenile law system, you may be seeking out information on what may happen next to your child. Not too long ago, we told you about one possibility: the juvenile conference committee or the intake services committee. Now we will provide some basic information about another alternative to formal juvenile court hearings in New Jersey: a juvenile referee.

A juvenile referee presides over what is called an informal court. An informal court hearing may be scheduled for relatively minor cases such as suspected criminal mischief. The juvenile is expected to appear at the informal court hearing and admit or deny the allegations against them. If the juvenile denies the allegations, the referee will make a finding of facts and a determination of the juvenile’s delinquency. These are intended to be forwarded to a juvenile court judge as recommendations.

In additions to findings of fact and determination of delinquency, referees are also authorized to recommend a disposition, meaning the correctional measure provided to the juvenile. Referees can provide a recommendation for any kind of disposition except an out-of-home placement. If a parent at the hearing takes exception to the recommendations of the referee, they should so notify the referee at the end of the hearing before the recommendations are sent to a juvenile court judge.

A hearing before a referee is informal, and it is not strictly necessary for the juvenile to be represented by an attorney. Still, many parents want to be sure that the rights of their child have been safeguarded. These parents often will secure the services of a juvenile crimes lawyer with this goal in mind.

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