September 2022 - Finding the Right Advocate for A Child in Trouble
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our kids make questionable decisions. Dared by peers or enticed by internet challenges, they act without thought of the possible repercussions. Unfortunately, these decisions can have very serious consequences. It is imperative to retain an attorney experienced in juvenile matters to advocate for your child and protect their future.
When minors–defined under the law as those under age 18—get into serious trouble, they face legal consequences just like adults. In New Jersey, juvenile matters are handled at the Superior Court level, Family Division. If a juvenile is charged with certain serious crimes, that juvenile may be tried as an adult. A juvenile adjudication or a criminal conviction may adversely affect college and employment opportunities and subjects the juvenile to penal consequences such as probation, juvenile detention, and/or incarceration.
The law affords juveniles certain procedural safeguards in addition to the same constitutional rights as adults, including the right to due process, protection against unlawful searches and seizures, the right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney. Although criminal punishment can include house arrest, community service, counseling, curfews, probation, and juvenile detention, the juvenile justice system aims to rehabilitate the juvenile.
There are differences, however, in how juveniles are treated by the Superior Court level, Family Division:
- Except when tried as an adult, juvenile offenses are adjudicated as delinquencies, not adult criminal convictions; and
- Juveniles do not have the right to a trial by jury; instead, their cases are heard and decided by a Superior Court Judge at the County level.
When exercising your child’s right to an attorney, it is important to retain one who is experienced in handling juvenile matters and understands the options unique to the juvenile system and available defenses to that particular juvenile’s case. The severity of the charges will have an impact on how the case is docketed within the Juvenile Justice System. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can protect your child’s rights and effectively advocate on their behalf in either Family or Superior Court.