Facing a criminal charge is serious no matter an individual’s age. However, when the youth is charged with a crime, the criminal process that follows is significantly different from when an adult is charged with the same crime.
As such, when dealing with the juvenile court system in New Jersey and elsewhere, it is imperative that the accused juvenile and their parents or guardians understand how to navigate the juvenile criminal court system and how to generate the best criminal defense for the matter.
How juvenile criminal court is different
When you think about a criminal case, you likely envision a courtroom with a judge and jury. While adults have the right to a trial by jury, juveniles do not. For criminal matters, juvenile criminal cases are decided by a judge in the family division and are not heard in front of a jury. Additionally, most juvenile hearings are not open to the public and the juvenile records that may result will be kept private.
If a juvenile is convicted of the criminal charges they were accused of, a judge has a wide range of dispositions based on the juvenile code in New Jersey. Often, a judge will order probation supervision.
Juvenile tried as an adult
Just because the accused is a minor does not mean they are immune from facing adult criminal charges. In serious matters, a juvenile may be tried as an adult. This means the case is transferred to adult court. For a juvenile to be tried as an adult, they must be at least 14 years of age. As such, the proceeding will not follow the process of adult criminal court. Additionally, they will face the same sentence as an adult if they are convicted.
While many have a basic understanding of the criminal court system, others are not familiar with the juvenile court system. As such, it is important to have a legal team to help one better understand how the juvenile system works. This puts one in the best position when it comes to creating a defense and moving forward in the juvenile system.