When an individual under the age of 18 commits a crime, it is referred to as a juvenile crime and the minor may face legal consequences in juvenile court. While New Jersey’s adult justice system is geared toward retribution or punishment, the juvenile justice system is geared toward rehabilitation and treatment of juvenile offenders. Juvenile cases are heard in family court. In juvenile court, there is no trial by jury. Instead, a family court judge decides whether the juvenile is guilty of the crime. Instead of finding the juvenile guilty, the judge may decide to divert the case by sending it to a Juvenile Conference Committee or by resolving the case through community service or some other measure. There are often enhanced penalties for juveniles who commit certain crimes. For example, a juvenile accused of possessing marijuana or any other controlled dangerous substance (“CDS”) can face a mandatory fine and the loss of their driver’s license.
While it rarely happens, minors may be tried as adults. For example, in cases involving serious crimes, such as murder or armed robbery, the prosecutor may as the court to try the individual as an adult. If a minor is tried as an adult, he or she will be prosecuted and sentenced as an adult. The decision to prosecute an individual as a juvenile or as an adult is a critical one. An attorney may be able to ensure that the minor does not get tried as an adult.
One common misconception that individuals often have is that juvenile convictions disappear as soon as the child turns 18 years old. Convictions – whether juvenile or adult – remain on the individual’s record for life until and unless it is expunged. In fact, colleges and employers often inquire into juvenile’s backgrounds. Even a minor conviction for a youthful indiscretion can stain a person’s record, block acceptance to a university, or prevent one from landing a good job.
When a juvenile is arrested, parents often decide not to retain an attorney. Perhaps parents make this decision because they feel the potential consequences do not warrant the time or money required to retain an attorney. However, juvenile crimes carry the potential for serious and lasting consequences to a child. In addition to the fact that colleges may ask for information about juvenile offenses, certain juvenile offenses may be considered by the courts in making sentencing decisions if a juvenile is later charged with a crime as an adult.
If you or your child is charged with a juvenile offense, it is important to retain an attorney to navigate the juvenile justice system. Do not allow your child to answer any questions or be interviewed by police or investigators until an attorney is present. The attorneys at theWolf Law represent juvenile accused of all types of crimes, including: drug possession and/or distribution, theft, DWI/DUI, disorderly conduct, and assault. The attorneys at Wolf Law will fight to ensure that your child gets a second chance and will work to prevent your child from obtaining a criminal history. Call today for a free consultation.