Crimes are committed by people of all ages. Consequences of these actions may vary depending on the individual’s age and the crime they commit. When a child under the age of 18 breaks the law in the state of New Jersey, it is known as juvenile delinquency. This may involve committing a crime, a disorderly persons offense, a petty disorderly persons offense, or a violation of a penal statute, ordinance or regulation.
In New Jersey, all juvenile offenders must have legal representation. It is the parent or guardian’s responsibility to retain these services for their child in the event of a juvenile case. However, if they cannot afford an attorney, a public defender may be requested for the child.
When dealing with juvenile matters, it is the court’s goal to hold the child accountable for their actions and rehabilitate them for their offense. The child will appear in court to determine whether or not they committed the crime they are accused of. The child’s defense will be provided with a copy of the complaint, detailing the accusation. Depending on the nature of the offense, the child may be taken into the custody of a juvenile facility.
The court makes all decisions on how cases are handled. These decisions are made based on the nature and severity of the offense as well as the child’s age and if they have a prior record. These cases are handled in one of the following ways:
- Juvenile Conference Committee or Intake Services Conference: The child and their parent are invited to discuss the offense with a trained citizen volunteer panel that is appointed by the court, or a Judiciary staff person. This is an informal discussion that does not determine delinquency. Consequence recommendations are made and forwarded to a judge for approval
- Juvenile referee/Informal court: This referee conducts a hearing in which the child is expected to admit or deny the complaint against them. The referee will assess the facts presented to them and determine delinquency if it is necessary. They make recommendations to the judge for approval. The child’s defense is able to disagree with the findings before they are presented to the judge
- Judge/Formal court: A judge oversees the court hearing where the child will have to plead guilty or not guilty. The court may order any consequence to help the child rehabilitate
What Consequences Can be Imposed on a Child?
There are various types of consequences that a child may meet if they are found guilty of breaking the law. This may include but is not limited to:
- Community service
- Release to a parent or guardian
- Required support services or parental involvement
- Residential mental health and/or substance abuse and alcohol treatment
- Transfer of custody
- Secure confinement/incarceration
- Suspended driver’s license
- Work, outdoor, academic, and/or vocational programs
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