Our law firm represents individuals charged with crimes and offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Sometimes these incidents involve allegations against juveniles. No parent or guardian wants to deal with a juvenile delinquency issue, but it does happen! At our initial consultation with a parent and the juvenile, our criminal defense law firm explains the process to parents and guardians who are obviously concerned about their child and the long-term consequences of a potential criminal allegation or conviction.
What is Delinquency in New Jersey?
Delinquency is defined as an act by a juvenile under the age of 18, if committed by an adult, would constitute an offense, crime, a disorderly person’s offense, a petty disorderly person’s offense or a violation of any other penal statute, ordinance, or regulation within a State (or Commonwealth)
How does child enter the juvenile justice system in New Jersey?
A child enters the justice system when a person accuses him or her of committing an act against the law in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or any state within the United States. In New Jersey there are several things that can happen if the child is accused of committing a delinquent act.
Local Police Options in New Jersey
Following the allegation, the police officer may detain the child and then release him or her the parent or guardian with a warning. This is often referred to as a “counseled and release alternative”. In addition, the police officer may also conduct the station house adjustment. This is where the officer will not file a Complaint as long as certain conditions are satisfied. A juvenile officer should conduct the station house adjustment, but if one is not available, it can still be conducted.
If neither of the alternatives are an option because of the allegation, the police officer will file a Complaint and refer the case to the Court Intake Services. The Court will review the matter and determine how the case will be handled. The Court will decide whether the Complaint should be diverted and sent to a juvenile referee or sent directly to the Superior Court.
Diversion Option – Juvenile Conference Committee & Referees
What is a Juvenile Conference Committee
If it is the child’s first or second offense of a minor criminal allegation, the Complaint may be diverted to a juvenile conference or intake service conference. The Juvenile Conference Committee is comprised of community residents appointed by the Court to review certain delinquency allegations. Intake service conferences are conducted by a Superior Court intake staff in order to review slightly more serious delinquency allegations.
The parent of the child against whom the Complaint is filed are invited to discuss the offense of the factors. This is an informal discussion, and the attorneys are not required to attend it.
If all the conditions set by the Juvenile Conference Committee are followed, the Complaint is dismissed. If, however, the conditions are not followed, the Complaint will go back to Court and be heard by a Judge.
Juvenile Referee Options
Other diversion option is a referee informal Court. This is the highest level for informal Court matter. A referee conducts a hearing at which your child is expected to admit or deny allegations. Referees can recommend dismissal of the Complaint or make an adjudication (finding of delinquency). Ultimately, this position of the referee recommends are subject to approval by the Judge.
If the juvenile matter cannot be resolved in the form of an informal proceedings such as a referee hearing, the matter will be referred to the Court for formal Court proceedings. A Superior Court judge oversees these hearings in New Jersey. Initially the juvenile and their parent/guardian will be provided with a Notice of Counsel hearing. At that time, the Court will ask the juvenile and the parent to identify whether or not they will seek the services of a public defender or retain a private attorney.
The Court will schedule a plea hearing where the child will be expected to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If a not guilty plea is entered, the Court will schedule an adjudicatory hearing. At such a hearing both sides present evidence and the attorneys argue the case. The State has the burden of proof and must prove the allegations against the child beyond a reasonable doubt. If the State meets its burden, the Court will not find the child guilty, but rather adjudicate the child delinquent.
If your son or daughter is arrested, hire a criminal defense lawyer! Do not attempt to navigate the juvenile justice system on your own
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in PA & NJ
Please click here to contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas.