A juvenile offense is any crime committed by a boy or girl who is younger than eighteen years old. Any type of crime can be considered a juvenile offense. This distinction is important because the penalties for a case can differ based on whether the defendant is legally a minor or an adult. In some cases, it is possible for a minor to be tried, and sentenced, as an adult.
Cases involving juvenile offenders are treated differently by the court in many ways. Because of the defendants’ young ages and often incomplete mental development, a rehabilitative approach is used in place of a strictly punitive one. Juvenile offenders’ identities are not revealed to the public, and these cases are conducted in closed sessions. Additionally, juvenile criminal records are not available to the public. These measures are taken to protect minor offenders’ names and reputations, giving them the chance to reflect upon past decisions and work toward better futures without the obstruction that a public criminal record can pose.
Juvenile offenders do not face the same additional consequences for their crimes that adults do. These additional consequences include driver’s license suspension and the loss of voting rights.
Juvenile offenses are handled by the Family Division of the superior court of the county in which the crime is committed. The Family Division is the same division that handles divorce and custody cases. Adult offenses are handled by the Criminal Division of the county’s superior court.
N.J.S.A. 2A:4A, the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice, exists to protect juvenile offenders and their families in New Jersey. It ensures that juvenile offenders receive supervision and support following their sentencing. It states that the minor may not be taken from his or her family unless there is significant reason to believe that his or her health, safety, or others’ health and/or safety is at risk.
Minors who are arrested and charged with juvenile offenses may be sent to the county’s juvenile detention center, which is a facility that houses juvenile offenders. Following a Risk Assessment at the center, the minor may be returned to his or her family or detained. The Risk Assessment is used to determine whether or not it is safe to allow an offender out of custody. Some of the factors that are considered in the assessment are:
- The minor’sprevious criminal record, including record of his or her appearancefor court proceedings.
- The seriousness ofthe minor’s crime.
- The minor’s age.
- The minor’srelationship with his or her community.
Within 24 hours of entering the detention center, a juvenile judge see the minor and hear his or her case. An adjudicatory hearing must occur within thirty days of the minor’s arrest. If he or she is found guilty, he or she faces these potential outcomes:
- DeferredDisposition. This means that the minor is given a time frame duringwhich he or she must not commit any other criminal offenses. At theend of the time frame, he or she must again see the judge and provethat he or she can manage to obey the laws. If the judge determinesthat the minor will not commit the offense again, the charges aredropped.
- JuvenileProbation. The minor is put on probation and must complete itsterms. He or she is assigned to a probation officer whose job is towork with the minor and his or her parent or guardian to ensure thathe or she completes the terms of the probation.
- Juvenile IntensiveSupervision Program. This is for minors who show high potential forrecidivism. In the Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program, the minoris closely supervised by a court officer. He or she continues to goto school and live at home while attending mandatory substance abuseor mental health programs. This program is similar to juvenileprobation, but more stringent.
- A ResidentialProgram. There are many residential programs across New Jersey.These facilities provide structure and interaction for juvenileoffenders in a secure environment. This type of program emphasizesvocational training and community service.
- The TrainingSchool for Boys and Girls. This is the most secure placement foryouth offenders. It is for the most serious juvenile criminals. TheNew Jersey Training School for Boys and Girls is located in MonroeTownship, New Jersey, and houses approximately two hundred juvenileoffenders. It, like other residential programs in the state,emphasizes vocational skills for its residents to use upon theirrelease.
If your minor son or daughter has been charged with a crime, call Ron Bar-Nadav at 201-525-1555 for expert legal advice. Your child needs an experienced criminal attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for his or her case. Ron Bar-Nadav has years of experience working in Bergen County and can help you develop your case to its full potential.