If your son or daughter has had contact with New Jersey’s juvenile justice system, you may have some questions about how it operates and how it differs from the adult criminal justice system. This post is designed to provide some basic facts about the juvenile law system.
The juvenile justice system’s focus is twofold: rehabilitating youthful offenders and holding them accountable for their actions. Cases are supposed to be handled according to the law as it applies to the facts of a particular case.
A juvenile case begins with the filing of a complaint accusing a juvenile of having violated New Jersey law. A complaint may be filed if a police officer claims to have observed a juvenile breaking the law, or it may be filed if a victim or another witness claims that the juvenile has broken the law. The juvenile may be taken into custody and housed in a juvenile facility. Otherwise the juvenile will be released to their parents, who will receive notice of when the juvenile is expected to appear in court.
If a juvenile is found to be criminally liable in a particular case, the juvenile is said to have been adjudicated delinquent. This is equivalent to a verdict of guilty in the adult system. A juvenile is defined as anyone under the age of 18. Offenses that a juvenile could be adjudicated delinquent for include crimes, disorderly persons offenses, petty disorderly persons offenses and violations of other laws and regulations.
The New Jersey Courts strongly recommend that an attorney be consulted for all legal matters and court appearances, and a lawyer is required for formal court hearings before a judge in the juvenile system. An experienced juvenile crimes lawyer is a wise choice for helping a juvenile navigate the system.