What to Know if You Are a Parent Charged With a Crime in NJ
Criminal charges can be tough for anyone, but they can be especially hard on parents because the ramifications of an arrest and/or conviction are far-reaching and, in many cases, permanent. A parent who is charged with a crime in New Jersey faces severe consequences that may include prison time, as well as the loss of custody of their children. This is particularly likely if the alleged crime either involved the parent’s child or exposed the child to danger or risk of harm. The bottom line is that the presence of a child matters a great deal when an individual is charged with a crime. Also, even if a child was not involved in the alleged criminal offense, a conviction and lengthy prison sentence could still jeopardize the defendant’s ability to raise their child going forward. That’s why it is so important for any parent accused of a crime in New Jersey to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney at your earliest opportunity and start building a strong defense.
If you or your child’s other parent is facing criminal charges in Hudson County, New Jersey, contact the Jersey City law office of William Proetta Criminal Law to consult with a dedicated criminal defense lawyer who can assist you with addressing all of your questions and concerns. We defend parents charged with assault, endangering the welfare of a child, disorderly conduct, terroristic threats, weapons crimes, DWI offenses, and everything in between. We know how important the outcome is to your family’s future and will fight for your innocence as if your case is our own. You can reach us anytime by contacting (201) 793-8018 for an absolutely free consultation.
Criminal Charges Commonly Filed Against Parents in NJ
Some common examples of criminal and motor vehicle charges that parents often face in New Jersey include: driving under the influence, assault charges, domestic violence related offenses, unlawful possession of a weapon, and drug distribution.
Parents Who Face Charges for DUI
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): Although driving under the influence is generally a traffic offense, a DWI with a Minor charge is actually a disorderly persons offense that carries possible jail time for anyone convicted of the charge. Beyond that, the police and prosecutor might also opt to pursue charges for Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
Parents Facing Assault Charges
Assault charges: An assault charge may be classified as either a disorderly persons offense for Simple Assault or an indictable offense for Aggravated Assault. The distinction between these two charges usually revolves around the identity of the victim, as well as the severity of any injuries suffered by the victim. When the victim was a child, the defendant should expect to face Child Endangerment charges on top of the assault charges, in addition to an investigation by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) for child abuse.
Parents Accused of Domestic Abuse
Domestic Violence: A conviction on an assault or threat charge already carries severe penalties that include prison time, fines, and a criminal record. When the assault or threat was committed against a spouse, significant other, co-parent, or someone with whom the defendant previously had a romantic relationship, it may be classified as an act of domestic violence. This can lead to enhanced penalties, including a restraining order that prevents the defendant from having any contact with his or her children going forward.
Parents Arrested With Weapons
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon: New Jersey gun laws are no joke, as they carry some of the toughest penalties in the entire country. When a gun crime is committed in a household where a minor is present, the penalties can be even more severe. This means that if you are accused of illegally possessing a handgun, and a child was present in the vicinity of that handgun at any time, you could be charged with multiple felonies. A gun possession charge alone could land you in prison for anywhere from 5 to 10 years.
Parents Accused of Selling Drugs
Just like gun crimes, drug crimes are also taken very seriously by NJ police and prosecutors. The presence of a minor in a household where drugs were being illegally distributed, manufactured, or sold is very likely to put the adult offender’s child custody rights at risk. This potential consequence comes along with the heavy criminal consequences of crimes like heroin distribution, intent to distribute cocaine, maintaining a drug production facility, or distribution of marijuana.
Parents Charged With Endangering the Welfare of a Child
While just about any criminal charge could have serious repercussions, a criminal charge against a parent often carries more weight. That’s because a parent who commits a crime with a child involved could face unique charges for Endangering the Welfare of a Child, which carries additional penalties. Moreover, even if the parent is not charged with child endangerment, they could still lose custody of their kids simply for being convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison. As set forth by N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4, a person with a legal duty to take care of a child can be charged with Endangering the Welfare of Children if they abuse or neglect the child.
Basically, this means that you cannot expose a minor to any kind of sexual, physical, or emotional harm if you are that child’s parent, guardian, caregiver, or anyone else to whom care of the child has been entrusted on a permanent or temporary basis. Needless to say, committing certain crimes may be considered “child abuse,” particularly if the crime exposes the underage child to risk of harm.
Why Is It Important Whether a Parent Is Charged With a Felony or Misdemeanor in NJ?
In New Jersey, criminal charges against parents (or against anyone else) are typically classified into one of three categories: indictable crimes, disorderly persons offenses, and traffic Offenses. It is important to know the distinction between these three types of “crimes” because the legal process differs for each. While indictable crimes are handled in the county Superior Court and require the prosecution to secure a grand jury indictment before formally bringing the charges against you, a less serious disorderly persons offense or traffic offense is handled in the local Municipal Court and does not need to go through a grand jury before formal charges may be filed.
Additionally, the consequences of a conviction vary, depending on the exact type of charge that you face. For example, an indictable offense, or felony, is likely to carry prison time if you are convicted or plead guilty. Moreover, some of the most serious felonies, such as a second degree assault or weapons charge, have a presumption of incarceration, which means that the judge must sentence the defendant to prison time if there is a conviction or guilty plea. This is true unless the defendant can successfully demonstrate that the presumption should be waived in their case. By contrast, many disorderly persons offenses, petty disorderly persons offenses, and traffic offenses may or may not result in jail time even if there is a conviction.
The bottom line is that the range of penalties is harsher for indictable crimes, which means any fourth degree, third degree, second degree, or first degree offense. Not only could a parent charged with an indictable offense face the very real possibility of prison time, but they are also far more likely to have additional issues with child custody or an investigation by child protective services.
Additional Complications When a Parent Is Arrested in NJ
If you are responsible for the wellbeing of a child, New Jersey law requires you to provide that minor with sufficient food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care. Of course, it can be extremely difficult to meet this legal requirement to take care of your children if you are convicted of a crime and locked up in a state prison or county jail for an extended period of time. But even if you manage to avoid a prison sentence, a criminal conviction could still create significant complications for your ability to function as a parent. These are some of the other consequences of a criminal charge:
- Detention while Your Case is Going on: Sometimes, a person who has been placed under arrest and charged with a serious crime in NJ – such as aggravated assault or illegal handgun possession – is subject to detention while awaiting resolution of their case. A determination about whether the defendant should remain in custody until trial is made at a detention hearing, where a judge will evaluate the risk that the defendant poses to the public if allowed to remain free. One of the factors that the judge may consider is whether the defendant has children who depend on him or her for support, which should give some indication of just how devastating it can be for a parent who loses their detention hearing.
- Loss of License: Many criminal offenses, DWI offenses, and traffic violations can result in the offender having their driver’s license suspended. Without the ability to drive, you might find it difficult to get to work each day – and this can make it very hard for you to earn enough money to financially support your children. It can also make it impossible for you to pick up your kids from school each day, drive them to the hospital if there is an emergency, and take them to and from any other places where they may need to go.
- Criminal Record: If you are convicted of a felony-level offense in NJ, you will be left with a criminal record. Being branded as a “convicted felon” could make it extremely tough for you to get, or keep, a job in the future. The resulting adverse impact on your income can also make it difficult for you to provide your children with the financial support they need going forward.
Consult a Dedicated Defense Attorney at Our Jersey City Office if You Are a Parent With a Criminal Case
Needless to say, parents who have been arrested and charged with crimes or significant traffic offenses are especially in need of top-notch defense counsel. The potential outcome of your criminal case can lead to more detrimental effects for yourself and your family’s life than you anticipate. And yet, you are considered innocent until proven guilty. At William Proetta Criminal Law, our talented team of criminal defense lawyers can adeptly and aggressively seek to protect your good name and your future, for you and the kids that rely on you.
Are you a parent facing criminal charges anywhere in Hudson County or the greater region of New Jersey? We can help. Our law firm serves clients in towns and cities like Jersey City, Weehawken, Hoboken, Kearny, Guttenberg, and Bayonne. Contact us at (201) 793-8018 to discuss your case free of charge.