It might be easy to say that the answer to the question posed above is that it depends on the nature of the crime. But the safer and smarter answer, and the one every New Jersey parent should hear and take to heart, is that no matter what allegations a child may be facing, they need to be taken seriously and responded to with the help of resourceful legal counsel.

Any violation charged has the potential to cause long-term damage to a young person’s future. And the effects only get magnified if a conviction is obtained. Having a criminal record is something that can result in diminished educational and work opportunities.

This is an issue that is easy to minimize. The widespread perception is that a person convicted as a juvenile only faces having marks against them until they turn 18. But that is incorrect. And a parent’s inclination to forego an attorney’s help isn’t helped by official notifications from the court that an attorney isn’t required.

The fact is that the most common offenses filed against juveniles run the full range of serious crime, from drug distribution or possession to sexual assault. Burglary, theft and shoplifting rank high, as well. And even though the latter typically aren’t considered violent crimes, they can still lead to serious consequences.

This is something that may well be on the mind of the parents of a 10-year-old boy who is accused of grand larceny and criminal mischief. According to the details reported in the New Jersey Herald, police in upstate New York claim the child got into a garage at a construction site. They say he attempted to steal two trucks and wound up driving both into a nearby ditch.

While the matter is said to be being handled in that state’s family court, it would be a mistake to think there couldn’t be significant consequences.