Bergen County NJ Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys
If your child has been charged with a criminal offense in Bergen County New Jersey it is imperative for you to speak to an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney. The juvenile criminal justice system in New Jersey is drastically different then the adult criminal justice system. Although the overall goal of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate the individual, not to punish and incarcerate them, that goal changes drastically depending on either the underlying charges or the juvenile’s prior record. Some of the most common charges litigated in juvenile court in Bergen County include simple assault, marijuana possession, marijuana distribution, shoplifting and burglary.
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has over 200 years of combined experience on staff, including over twenty years combined of prosecuting experience. Our law firm has seven former prosecutors on staff, one of them holding a directorial position for the Juvenile Team during his tenure as a prosecutor. Our firm has been representing juveniles charged criminal throughout Bergen County in towns like Paramus, Hackensack, Fort Lee, Mahwah, Ramsey, Saddle Brook, Ridgefield Park and Rochelle Park for over fifteen years. If your child has been charged with a criminal offense and is under the age of eighteen it is important that you speak to a juvenile criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Our office is available 24/7 to help assist in any way possible. We fully understand that a loved one being charged with a criminal offense can be extremely nerve racking. To schedule a free initial consultation today with any one of the eight criminal defense attorneys on staff please contact us at 201.429.9783.
Common Juvenile Charges in Bergen County:
- Juvenile Drug Possession
- Juvenile Robbery
- Juvenile Shoplifting
- Juvenile Burglary
- Juvenile Criminal Mischief
- Juvenile Drug Distribution
- Juvenile Aggravated & Simple Assault
- Disorderly Conduct
- Sexual Assault
Important Distinctions between the Juvenile & Adult System:
- As stated above, the juvenile system is geared towards rehabilitation instead of the traditional punishment aspect of the adult system.
- Juvenile matters will be handled in the Family Division of the Bergen County Superior Court instead of the Criminal Division where adult criminal matters are handled.
- Any juvenile record received will be sealed when the minor reaches the age of 18 as opposed to the adult system where it will remain on that individual’s record until it is eligible to be expunged.
- A trial in the juvenile system will be handled as a bench trial as opposed to the common jury trials conducted in the adult system.
Common Punishments for a Juvenile in NJ:
Traditionally, if the minor was charged with a low level offense, defense counsel can convince a judge to allow the minor to enter a diversionary program. Further, an experienced defense counsel may even be able to convince the judge to divert the case out of the Family Division and send the matter to either a Referee or even a Juvenile Conference Committee. Both of those proceedings are less formal and the potential penalties can be drastically less. For more information on these options please contact our Hackensack office at 201.429.9783.
With all that being said, if the minor is charged with a serious crime such as robbery, burglary, drug distribution or carjacking the prosecution may attempt to have the juvenile waived up to the criminal division an prosecuted as an adult. This would subject the individual the potential of lengthy incarceration and a permanent criminal record. If a juvenile is waived up and prosecuted as an adult the potential ramifications are catastrophic. For example, here is a breakdown of the difference in the potential exposure one faces if convicted of certain offenses:
- First Degree Felony = 10 – 20 Years in a State Prison
- Second Degree Felony = 5 – 10 Years in a State Prison
- Third Degree Felony = 3 – 5 Years in a State Prison
- Fourth Degree Felony = 18 Months in a State Prison
- Disorderly Persons Offense = 6 Months in the Bergen County Jail
- First Degree Felony = 4 Years in Jamesburg
- Second Degree Felony = 3 Years in Jamesburg
- Third Degree Felony = 2 Years in Jamesburg
- Fourth Degree Felony = 1 Year in Jamesburg
- Disorderly Persons Offense = 6 Months in a Juvenile Detention Center
Juvenile Criminal Justice Process in New Jersey
As discussed above, the juvenile criminal justice process is different than the criminal justice process that an adult would face. One distinction of the NJ juvenile justice process is that your son or daughter will be subjected to a juvenile delinquency action rather than a criminal matter. The Family Division of the Bergen County Superior Court, which is located in Hackensack, retains jurisdiction to resolve these matters. As previously stated above, if a case does proceed to trial it will be decided by a judge rather than jury. This means that one person (a Superior Court Judge) will decide your child’s case after a trial, rather than a jury of their peers deciding his or her fate.
Does my child need a lawyer?
The short answer to this is, yes they will. A juvenile is required to be represented by an attorney when he or she appears in juvenile court. As the parent you will not be permitted to speak on behalf or represent your son or daughter unless you’re a licensed attorney in this state. As such, as the parent you are obligated to retain an attorney. If you or your spouse can’t afford a private attorney, then you can make an application on behalf of your child’s behalf to qualify for a public defender.
Can Law Enforcement Question My Child?
Generally, police are not allowed to question a juvenile unless their parent, or an attorney is present to be there. Police are required to apply their best efforts to locate a parent before they begin questioning a juvenile. This rule is even more applicable when it comes to younger children. If a juvenile confesses, then the Prosecutor will have the burden to prove the juvenile’s parent could not be located in order for the confession to be admissible in court. If you or your attorney allows the child to be interrogated by the police, then they’re required to follow the “highest standards of due process and fundamental fairness”. In the Interests of A.W., 212 N.J. 114 (2012).
Can the Police Arrest My Child?
A police officer in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey is allowed to take a juvenile into custody if they have probable cause that your son or daughter is delinquent. Delinquent means that your son or daughter allegedly committed an indictable (felony) crime, disorderly persons (misdemeanor) offense or violated a local municipal ordinance. A complaint will likely be prepared by the arresting officer which will detail the allegations of delinquency. Police must also notify you immediately thereafter. While the juvenile delinquency complaint is drafted at the police department, the actual delinquency complaint is filed directly with the juvenile intact unit in Hackensack at the Bergen County Superior Court.
Can My Child be Detained Pending the Outcome of His/her Case?
In New Jersey, there is no right to bail in a juvenile case. A determination will be made when the delinquency complaint is filed to release your child to your custody, or detain them at a juvenile center. Your child will be detained if he or she has a history of failing to appear in court, poses a threat to other people or their property if they’re released, and/or your child is charged with a first, second or third degree crime.
Your child can also be detained for some fourth degree crimes. If your child is 11 years old or younger then they can’t be placed in detention center. However, if they are being charged with a first degree or second degree crime then there is a possibility that they can be detained. If the Prosecutor files a motion to detain, then your child is entitled to a detention hearing no later than the next morning of his or her arrest. A Bergen County Superior Court Judge will determine at the hearing to detain your child or release them to your custody.
Can My Child be Waived to Adult Court?
The answer to this question is yes, they are allowed to waive your child into adult court. The Prosecutor is allowed to waive your child’s juvenile case up to adult court under certain circumstances. Clearly this is not the route that you want for your child since the penalties are usually much more severe when if your child is tried as an adult.
Is There a Diversion Program for Juvenile Matters?
Yes there are, in fact there are several options. They’re commonly referred to as diversions, which our firm has been quite successful in. If we are retained in the investigation stage, we can possibly resolve the case at the police station without resort to the courts (e.g. work with the police to repair, provide restitution, apology, etc.). If a juvenile delinquency has already been filed. Then another option is the Juvenile Conference Committee. This option allows the juvenile delinquency charges to be averted to a committee that tries to come to a resolution of your child’s case without involving the courts anymore beyond that point. Another option our lawyers try to pursue is an Intake Services Conference where the case is diverted to a referee who will attempt to resolve the case without your child pleading guilty.
Experienced New Jersey Juvenile Criminal Defense Firm
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has the experience in the juvenile justice system to adequately protect your child’s rights. Our law firm has over 200 years of combined experience, with ten attorneys that practice exclusively in criminal law. With seven former prosecutors on staff, and one of them holding a directorial position of the Juvenile Team during his tenure, our firm has the experience and knowledge to defend your child in this difficult time. When a juvenile is charged with a criminal offense in Bergen County or elsewhere in New Jersey there future is on the line. Therefore, it is imperative that you speak to an attorney about your options as a juvenile conviction can weigh heavily on your child’s future for example getting admitted into colleges. Please contact Mr. Rosen who heads our Fort Lee office or any one of our Bergen County offices for a free consultation with one of our experienced juvenile defense attorneys. We can be reached directly at 201-429-9783.