The criminal justice system treats individuals that are considered juveniles differently than adults. Those under 18 years old are not prosecuted for crimes but are prosecuted for “delinquent acts” and may be punished by confinement in a juvenile facility, or sentenced to probation, community service, supervised release, or diversionary programs. If your child has been charged with a criminal offense, it is essential to have an experienced juvenile defense attorney at your side.
Learning your child is in police custody is one of the scariest calls a parent can get. Although juvenile cases are handled differently than adult criminal cases, many times an adjudication of juvenile delinquency can lead to future criminal behavior or have other adverse and long-lasting consequences. Juvenile criminal defense attorney Raphael Rosenblatt of Rosenblatt Law PC understands parents’ concerns and will use his experience as a former prosecutor to fight for your child.
What is a Juvenile Delinquent?
Different states classify juvenile delinquents differently, but almost all provide some special treatment for offenders under the age of 18. In New Jersey, anyone 18 years old or younger may be tried as a juvenile. In New York, anyone between the ages of seven and fifteen is considered a juvenile.
Juvenile Justice Procedures and Criminal Defense
Police and prosecutors must treat juveniles differently than adults. Juveniles are not arrested; cases are initiated by way of juvenile complaint, which must be based on probable cause. The matter may then be referred to an informal process before a referee, where the matter may be resolved at the earliest stages. If the matter cannot be resolved with the referee, or if the charges are more serious, the case will be heard by a judge of the Superior Court, Family Division. There is no jury, as only judges adjudicate juvenile matters.
Serious charges may also result in the juvenile being detained in detention or sent to a shelter while the case remains pending. If in detention, juveniles are usually kept separate from adult offenders and, if appropriate, may be released to the custody of their parent or guardian, or released pre-trial with certain conditions (including electronic monitoring bracelets). After the case has proceeded to trial or agreed-to disposition, the Family Court will issue an adjudication of delinquency instead of conviction, and will enter dispositions instead of punishments. Dispositions can vary from confinement in a detention center, youth house, or institution, among other names given. Dispositions can also require probation, community service, fines, or other reformative outcomes such as deferred disposition and diversion programs.
Deferred Disposition & Diversion
Two of the different types of sentences for juvenile offenders include deferred disposition and diversion. In a deferred disposition, a juvenile is adjudicated as a delinquent, but as long as the juvenile meets conditions set out in the disposition, the case will be dismissed by the court. Diversion is a rehabilitative program that centers on helping the juvenile avoid the behaviors that led to the original criminal charges. Both deferred disposition and diversion allow a juvenile to avoid having a juvenile record if certain conditions are met.
The Difference Between Juvenile and Adult Criminal Defense
Like most states, New York and New Jersey treat underage offenders differently than adults. Young people often make mistakes, and the hope is the appropriate intervention can put them on the right path for the future. To prevent young and innocent people from being introduced to the negative influences of the criminal justice system, juvenile crimes are prosecuted in family court instead of criminal court.
The goals of the court system in juvenile delinquency cases are different than in cases of adult criminals. In juvenile cases, courts hope to keep families together and prevent future negative behavior. For this reason, many juvenile punishments focus on rehabilitative aspects instead of punitive aspects. Even in the event a juvenile is sentenced to confinement, detention centers are geared toward helping juveniles participate in the world around them and are often equipped with schools so that the juvenile can continue his or her education, even if in detention. Juvenile detention centers also often focus on mental health and behavioral management to prepare juveniles to return to the outside world.
The adult criminal justice system focuses on rehabilitation through punishment. The United States prison system is not a friendly place for anyone, and often people become victims of the system. Seldom are there sufficient funds for adequate mental health services, and prisons are often referred to as revolving door systems.
Although there are many similarities between the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal justice system, there are enough differences that present a trap for the unwary. As a result, if you or your child are facing juvenile charges, it is important to have legal representation from a knowledgeable and experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney such as the attorneys of Rosenblatt Law PC.
When Can a Juvenile be Tried as an Adult?
In cases where the crime involved is especially serious or violent (such as armed robbery, murder, or attempted murder), state law may allow a prosecutor to recommend that a juvenile be tried as an adult. In New York, those 16 or older are tried as adults no matter the crime, but those between 13 and 15 may be tried as adults in special cases. In New Jersey, offenders between the age of 15 and 18 may be tried as adults, and those under the age of 14 cannot be tried as adults.
Common Delinquent Acts
Those declared juvenile delinquents do not commit crimes but instead commit “delinquent acts.” A delinquent act is an act that an adult would be prosecuted for as a crime, but when committed by a juvenile is prosecuted in juvenile court.
Acts commonly prosecuted against juveniles include possession of controlled substances, property damage or vandalism, shoplifting or petty theft, possession of a firearm or weapon, arson, or criminal mischief.
Speak with an Experienced Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Receiving a call to pick your child up from the police station is a scary thing. It is even scarier to think that the outcome of a case could damage your child’s reputation and future before a family judge. Anytime your child must appear in court, it is always advisable to have an attorney to represent his or her best interests.
Although Rosenblatt Law PC cannot guarantee the outcome of a criminal or juvenile matter, our attorneys understand the importance of protecting yours or your child’s record. We do everything we can to make sure one mistake does not lead to a lifetime in the criminal justice system. Our job is to review the facts of the case and make the prosecutor prove beyond reasonable doubt your child committed the offenses that he or she is being charged under. Every case is different, but we fight just as hard for every client. Contact Rosenblatt Law PC to discuss your child’s situation today.