In New Jersey, the juvenile justice system functions as an entirely separate entity from the normal adult justice system. This means that minors arrested for a crime in Cape May will go through a totally different process than if they were an adult. The stated purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate the child and work to ensure that they do not offend again in the future, not to punish them for their crimes. However, in reality the juvenile system can be just as punitive as the adult system and juveniles can face harsh sentences such as time in a juvenile detention center.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our criminal defense attorneys have years of experience working in the juvenile justice system and bringing our young clients’ cases to a successful resolution. We know how to fight for your child to be granted entry into special programs that will prevent them from ending up with a criminal record, and we can aggressively defend their case at trial if it comes to that. For a free consultation, call our office today at (609) 616-4956.
Types of Crimes Juveniles are Charged with in Cape May
A juvenile can be charged with any crime, but there are some types of crimes that we see more often than others with our juvenile clients. These include the following:
- Underage Drinking
- Disorderly Conduct
- Simple Assault
- Sexual Assault, including child pornography charges for sending or receiving naked pictures of other minors
- Drug Crimes
How the Juvenile Justice System Works in Cape May
As noted above, the juvenile justice system functions as an entirely separate entity from the adult criminal justice system. Oftentimes, the juvenile court officers will make a significant effort to find a non-judicial remedy to your child’s case to avoid the trauma of having them go through a trial or other court proceeding. However, a non-judicial remedy is not always available. Furthermore, if your child is innocent, you may not be willing to accept such a remedy and would rather fight the case at trial. Below we walk you through some of the more common ways a juvenile case can unfold.
Pre-Trial Dismissal or Diversion
There are a number of different ways a skilled lawyer can work with the prosecutor to get your child’s charges dismissed. Typically, the prosecutor will want your child to complete some sort of program or set of requirements before moving to dismiss the case. One of the options is entering your child into a pre-trial intervention program, just like the kind offered for adult offenders. This program will usually have requirements such as your child completing drug and alcohol counseling, seeing a therapist, performing community service, and appearing for regular check-in appointments with their case officer. If the minor completes this program successfully, the charges will be dropped and they will not have a criminal record.
Another option unique to the juvenile courts is the Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC). The JCC is comprised of about 6-9 members of the local community where the alleged crime occurred. Instead of appearing before a judge in court, your child will appear before this committee. The committee will hear the minor’s story along with accounts from any victims, witnesses, parents, and others with relevant information. Based on this testimony, the JCC will make recommendations, such as that your child write letters of apology or work to pay off restitution. If your child completes the recommendations of the JCC, the prosecutor will move to dismiss the case.
Juvenile Trials and Being Adjudicated Delinquent
If one of the intervention programs is not offered, your lawyer can still work to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor where your child pleads guilty to the charge in exchange for the prosecutor recommending a lenient sentence. Many times, however, minors and their parents will not wish to accept a deal or do not believe a fair deal has been offered. In such cases, our experienced juvenile criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are ready and able to defend your child at trial.
A juvenile trial takes place before a judge. There are no juries in juvenile court. The judge will hear the evidence and testimony from both sides and then render a verdict. Instead of being found guilty, the minor will be “adjudicated delinquent” if the charges are found to be true. While the juvenile system is not supposed to be punitive, punishments for delinquent juveniles can in reality be quite severe, including the potential of mandatory time in the juvenile detention facility. It is vital that you have a skilled attorney representing your child at trial to avoid the harshest outcomes.
Juvenile Bail in Cape May
In the juvenile justice system, most minors are released to the custody of their parents or guardians after they have been arrested. There is no bail in any juvenile case. However, for extreme cases where the child is alleged to have committed a severe crime or there is reason to believe that the child will not appear on their scheduled court date, the juvenile intake officer can choose to hold the minor in detention while the case is resolved. Any such decision by the juvenile intake officer can be appealed to a juvenile court judge. An experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych will know how to craft a winning argument to convince the judge that your child is not a danger to the community and should be released to their home while the matter is resolved.
If Your Child Was Arrested, Call Our Cape May Juvenile Crimes Defense Team Today
A dream vacation in Cape May can quickly turn into a nightmare if your minor child is arrested. You will need to act swift in retaining a good lawyer for your child to protect them from potentially devastating consequences like time in the juvenile detention center or a record that follows them when applying for college or a job. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Cape May criminal defense attorneys have years of experience getting our juvenile client’s cases resolved in the most positive way possible. Call us today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.