In New Jersey, a juvenile must have legal representation for charges as an adult as well as a minor. Juvenile crimes are committed by those under the age of 18. Even if they turn 18 years old during court proceedings, they can still be tried as a juvenile since that was when the crime was committed. For juvenile cases, they will be heard by the family division of the Superior Court. However, if the charge is escalated to them being charged as an adult, they will be taken to the main court instead. Under certain circumstances, juveniles may be charged as an adult in court. Being charged as an adult gives more opportunity for harsher consequences. When juveniles commit crimes that are violent, judges may decide to elevate them to adult status. These crimes may include murder, assault, rape and more. An adult charge can present the juvenile with more penalties.
How do juvenile cases proceed?
Juvenile cases are not done in a regular courtroom setting. These cases are heard in family court. When a juvenile is detained, a prosecutor will file a petition against the child. This will include the details of the allegations that are being made against them. The family court trial is also known as a fact-finding hearing. There is no jury but there is a single judge. The judge will act and make the decisions by themselves. If they find that there is a lack of evidence, they may decide to dismiss the case. If they find that there is evidence to support the allegations being made, a dispositional hearing may be made. The judge may then order a probation department to investigate the juvenile’s home and school behavior.
Furthermore, the judge has the authority to order an evaluation of the child’s mental health. They can summon the city’s mental health services to do so. The decision of the court may detain a child or sentence them to parole in the custody of their parents. This may be until there is a dispositional hearing where the judge will further decide if the child is considered a delinquent or if they will be released to a guardian. Juveniles need the right representation to protect their future. They are still at a young age and have their whole lives ahead of them. This one act should not have an affect on them for the rest of their lives. In the future, depending on their juvenile offense, they may even be eligible for expungement.