Sentencing in Juvenile Court

New Jersey Juvenile Defense Lawyer

Sentencing in Juvenile Court

When a juvenile case cannot be resolved amicably, the matter must either proceed to resolution by plea or trial. While a trial is commonplace for a seasoned juvenile defense lawyer, the prospect of such a proceeding can be overwhelming for parents and their child; the concern being whether or not the disposition shall be favorable. The attorneys at our New Jersey law firm can address your concerns and provide you with the comfort and confidence you need in your decision. Please do not hesitate to contact our law office if you require an attorney to handle a case for your child. Our lawyers are prepared to assist you. The following information is intended to aid you in understanding trials and sentencing in NJ juvenile court.

Juvenile Trial: Disposition Hearing

When a juvenile pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, his or her case is to be scheduled for a disposition hearing. A disposition hearing is basically a sentencing proceeding to determine what penalties shall be imposed. The Court Rules in New Jersey set time guidelines for when disposition hearings should take place. Rule 5:24-1 mandates in situations where the child remains in custody that a disposition hearing or sentencing be conducted within 30 days after the juvenile entered his plea or was found guilty at trial. If the child has not been sentenced within 30 days of entry of his plea or conclusion of his trial and remains in custody, the court shall fix a date certain for sentencing within 10 days. In the event that a juvenile is not in custody, the sentencing must take place within 60 days of entry or his plea or a finding of guilt.

Manner of Disposition

New Jersey juvenile courts have several options at the time of sentencing. The court may order commitment, that is, a period of incarceration or order probation. In either case, the court must obtain and review a pre-disposition report. The report reviews the background of the child including, but limited to, prior record, development, physical and psychological state, and family background. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43 is the law in New Jersey which details the considerations which a juvenile judge must undertake in determining the appropriate disposition. These considerations include: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense; (2) the degree of injury to persons or damage to property caused by the juvenile’s offense; (3) the juvenile’s age, previous record, prior social service received and out-of-home placement history; (4) whether the disposition supports family strength, responsibility and unity and the well-being and physical safety of the juvenile; (5) whether the disposition provides for reasonable participation by the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian, provided, however, that the failure of a parent or parents to cooperate in the disposition shall not be weighed against the juvenile in arriving at an appropriate disposition; (6) whether the disposition recognizes and treats the unique physical, psychological and social characteristics and needs of the child; (7) whether the disposition contributes to the developmental needs of the child, including the academic and social needs of the child where the child has mental  or learning disabilities; (8) any other circumstances related to the offense and the juvenile’s social history as deemed appropriate by the court; (9) the impact of the offense on the victim or victims; (10) the impact of the offense on the community; and (11) the threat to the safety of the public or any individual posed by the child. It is important for a child to have a knowledgeable juvenile attorney at his side as the aforementioned considerations are significant and the right lawyer arguing the case can mean a lot.

Retention of Jurisdiction in NJ Juvenile Cases

Rule 5:24-5 mandates retention of jurisdiction by the juvenile court over cases in which it has entered an order of disposition for the duration of the dispositional terms and conditions. If the court finds at any time during the duration of the disposition, on notice and hearing, that the conditions of the order of disposition have been violated, it may substitute any other disposition which it might originally have made. If the disposition was an order of commitment or incarceration the court may, during the duration of that disposition, substitute any other disposition otherwise available to it. Retention of jurisdiction is discretionary whenever the foregoing mandatory retention terms do not apply.

Modification of a Sentence

New Jersey’s Court Rules provide authority for a juvenile court judge to modify a juvenile’s sentence post-disposition. In this regard, R. 5:24-6 provides that a court may correct, change or modify an order at any time. The court is also free to consider motions and applications for post-disposition relief.