Frequently Asked Questions in Juvenile Cases

Criminal Defense Lawyer & Former Prosecutor

Frequently Asked Questions in NJ Juvenile Cases

The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall defends children who have been charged with criminal offenses in New Jersey. A juvenile case is handled much differently than a normal criminal case so it is important that you hire an attorney with experience in defending these types of case. The lawyers at our NJ law firm have years of experience appearing in juvenile court and an attorney with our law office is available to speak to you immediately. Please do not hesitate to contact us if your child is under investigation, has been arrested or it is anticipated that he or she shall be charged, as initial consultations with our attorneys are always free of charge. We defend juvenile cases statewide including Monmouth County, Union County, Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Mercer County, Burlington County, Bergen County, and Somerset County. The following is a discussion of frequently asked questions in Juvenile Cases.

Frequently Asked Questions in Juvenile Cases

Juvenile Cases

Q: Where are Juvenile cases heard and how are they conducted?

A: In New Jersey, juvenile offenses and charges are heard in the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. The Superior Court is divided into vicinages based on County and a juvenile case is typically heard in the County Superior Court where the alleged offense occurred. The Juvenile Part of the Family Division is conducted in accordance with a set of rules designed entirely for adjudication of juvenile cases. The focus of the system is to help, assist and rehabilitate a child rather than punish him.

Q: What cases are heard in Juvenile Court?

A: In NJ, criminal offenses in which the suspect is under the age of 18 are heard in the Juvenile Part. The determinative date for purposes of determining jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court is the date of the incident and the suspect’s age at that time. In other words, offenses committed by suspects under the age of 18 on the date of the offense are heard in the Juvenile court. Children over the age of 18 can therefore be found in New Jersey’s Juvenile Court where they are involved in a case which arose prior to their 18th birthday but it did not actually get to Court until they reached 18 years of age.

Q: If a juvenile pleads guilty or is found guilty, will they have a record?

A: Juvenile admissions of guilt or findings of guilt are confidential and not subject to discovery. Additionally, all proceedings in the Juvenile part are closed to the public and conducted in private.

Q: If a child is detained, do they actually go to jail?

A: The juvenile system is built on the goal of serving the interests of the child. It obviously would not be in the best interests of a child to detain them in a jail or prison where adults are housed. Accordingly, individual juvenile detention facilities have been set up in each County for children who have been arrested and are to be detained. The facilities are known as Juvenile Detention Centers or Youth Detention Centers.

Q: What does the term “diversion” mean?

A: Criminal offenses are often diverted in two ways. First, a criminal charge against a child can be diverted to an outside body known as Juvenile Conference Committee, a judicially appointed body which hears juvenile cases informally. “Diversion” is also used to describe a type of adjudication wherein the Court carries or defers disposition on a case so as to give a child an opportunity to avoid conviction. If the child does not get in trouble for the diversion period, the case is closed without a finding of guilt.

Q: Are parents liable for the criminal acts of their child?

A: As a general rule, parents are not responsible for the criminal acts of their child. Parents are also generally excluded from personal liability for damages and restitution associated with criminal acts by their child.

Q: Does every child need to be represented by an attorney in Juvenile Court?

A: Absolutely. The law in New Jersey mandates that every juvenile defendant be represented by an attorney. Families who are indigent (i.e. that cannot afford an attorney) can have a public defender appointed to represent their child. Where indigency cannot be established, a parent or guardian must retain a lawyer for their child.

Q: Can we simply plead guilty and avoiding the necessity of hiring an attorney?

A: No. The very first court notice in Juvenile Court is a mandatory assignment of counsel hearing notice. This notice is a directive to the child and his or her family that they must hire an attorney to appear at the hearing or apply for a public defender to handle the case. No proceedings shall be undertaken by the court unless and until representation is obtained for the child.

The aforementioned questions are obviously broad and it is anticipated that most individuals will have more detailed questions for an attorney. The juvenile lawyers at our NJ criminal defense law firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, are prepared to answer your questions. A lawyer is available to speak to you immediately about your Monmouth County, Essex County, Ocean County, Middlesex County, Mercer County, Burlington County, Union County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Passaic County, Hudson County, or Bergen County case. Please do not hesitate to contact our law office.