Juvenile Arrests in New Jersey

NJ Criminal Attorney & Former Prosecutor

Juvenile Arrests in NJ

No one would expect a parent to know precisely what to do if their child is arrested. The criminal lawyers at our New Jersey law firm are, however, experienced in handling juvenile matters and know exactly what must be done to protect your child. A lawyer is available to speak to you immediately. Please do not hesitate to contact our office as initial consultations with our attorneys are always free of charge.

What is a Proper Basis for a Juvenile Arrest in NJ?

Probable cause to believe that an act of juvenile delinquency has taken place must exist in order for a child to be taken into custody. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-23 defines “delinquency” as the commission of an act which, if committed by an adult, would constitute: (1) a crime; (2) a disorderly persons offense; or (3) a violation of any other penal statute, ordinance or regulation. Accordingly, a child may be taken into custody when a police officer reasonably believes that the child has broken a criminal law or regulation.

What Should Parents Do When Their Child is Arrested in New Jersey?

The natural reaction to being told that your child has been arrested is that it must be some kind of mistake. An arrest is frequently unexpected and the situation immediately turns into one of chaos. It is important, however, that a parent does his or her best to maintain their composure and that a knowledgeable juvenile lawyer be consulted immediately.

A knowledgeable defense attorney can provide the necessary advice to address the situation and protect the interests of the child. It is also important to keep in mind that while the system is designed to help the child, the situation is adversarial in nature insofar as the prosecutor’s interest is to enforce the law—something which your child may or may not have actually violated. It is therefore imperative that parents refrain from making immediate judgments that their child is guilty and should learn his lesson, as the experience associated with the arrest and a resulting incarceration will be with the child for his entire life. You should also keep in mind that the government has every right to detain the child in a juvenile detention facility if it is believed that it is necessary for his safety or the safety of the community. For more information on detention please consult our Juveniles in Custody & Detention page. Given the stakes involved, your objective should be to do what is necessary to protect your child and an experienced juvenile attorney such as those at our NJ defense law firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, will know the best course of action.

What Should I Anticipate Following the Arrest of My Child?

Once an arrest is under way, the police will have to make an initial decision as to whether or not this is a serious crime which necessitates detention of the child, i.e., placement in the juvenile detention center until he can be further evaluated. The determination regarding detention is typically decided by the Court and includes considerations like the seriousness of the alleged crime, the child’s prior criminal history, any medical or psychological issues associated with the child, information provided by the police, third parties and any other information relevant to the child’s safety to himself or others.

If detention is not an issue, the police will ordinarily release the child and your next communication from the state typically is a Mandatory Assignment of Counsel Hearing notice. This hearing is conducted at the Superior Court and indicates that the case is being handled through the family court and is being prosecuted by the County Prosecutor’s Office. Another scenario is that the parent receives a scheduling notice for appearance at Juvenile Conference Committee. This is an informal proceeding wherein parents and the child meet with an individual, usually a municipal court judge, who rules on the case informally. The Juvenile Conference Committee generally involves less serious offenses and children who have no prior NJ juvenile offense history. The Committee may order that the child perform community service, pay fines, make restitution, or undertake drug, alcohol or psychological counseling. Please feel free to consult our Juvenile Conference Committee page for more details on this subject.

Your Child Has The Right to Remain Silent

Children possess the same right to remain silent as adults. The juvenile lawyers at our firm often find this to be the most important right to keep in mind whenever someone gets involved in a criminal case. Indeed, it is the job of the police to investigate a criminal incident and one of the best ways to do so is to interrogate or question suspects. It is imperative that parents and children realize that anything they say to police or others which contains admissions, will ordinarily be used against the child. It is crucially important that this not occur insofar as the damage stemming from admissions can be difficult to correct after the fact. Accordingly, if there is any opportunity whatsoever, an attorney should be enlisted immediately to limit interrogation or statements by children who are suspects or have been arrested for a criminal offense.

The most important direction we can give parents and guardians in New Jersey who have a child that has been arrested, is being investigated, or is a target for arrest, is that they get an lawyer immediately. The reality is that there is no discretion on whether or not a child will be represented in a criminal case; they have to be represented by a lawyer no matter what, so parents are better off getting an attorney involved as early as possible. Defense lawyers who are experienced in juvenile cases, such as those at our office, can guide parents through this difficult time and insure that missteps are not made. We handle juvenile cases throughout NJ including Ocean County, Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Mercer County, Union County, Essex County, Hudson County, Somerset County and Bergen County. Please do not hesitate to contact our NJ firm as our attorneys are available immediately and initial consultations are always without charge.