Hudson County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Seeing your child arrested and accused of committing criminal behavior can be a frightening experience. Even though the juvenile criminal justice system focuses more on rehabilitation than punishment, your child’s future may be at risk if they are sentenced for a juvenile criminal offense. A juvenile criminal record may jeopardize your child’s options for educational opportunities, employment, or housing as they move into adult life.

While juvenile courts often seek to give young offenders a second chance, your family should still take your child’s charges seriously. A Hudson County juvenile crime lawyer from William Proetta Criminal Law can help you understand the charges your child is facing and how best to protect their rights. We are local attorneys with in-depth knowledge of the Hudson County juvenile justice system, and we will fight fiercely for your child’s future.

Contact William Proetta Criminal Law as soon as possible to speak with a Hudson County juvenile crime lawyer in a free case review. We’ll provide you with an honest, upfront assessment of your child’s situation, so you can make the best decision to protect your family.

Common Types of Juvenile Crime Cases We Can Help With

At William Proetta Criminal Law, our experienced Hudson County juvenile crimes lawyers can help your child or teen face allegations of:

  • Drug crimes, including possession, distribution, and trafficking of drugs, strict liability for drug-induced death, or driving under the influence of drugs
  • Underage drinking, including underage purchase or possession of alcohol or underage DUI
  • Sexual offenses, including sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, invasion of privacy, lewdness, or the creation or distribution of child pornography
  • Assault and threats, including simple assault or aggravated assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or assault by auto
  • Theft, including robbery, auto theft, carjacking, or burglary
  • Shoplifting, which involves the theft of merchandise for sale from a merchant without paying full value
  • Vandalism, including graffiti, arson, or damage to property
  • Disorderly persons offenses, such as loitering or noise violations
  • Computer crimes, including identity theft, credit card fraud, or hacking

 Our Experienced Hudson County Juvenile Crime Lawyers Will Fight for Your Family

A Hudson County juvenile crime lawyer from our firm can help your family navigate the legal system by:

  • Spending time with you to go over your child’s charges, discuss their legal options, and talk about potential outcomes in the case
  • Thoroughly investigating the facts and circumstances of the charges to recover evidence and begin to put together legal and factual defenses
  • Retaining expert witnesses if needed to testify on technical aspects of the case or for sentencing
  • Filing motions to exclude evidence from the state’s case that is inadmissible under the law or obtained in violation of your child’s rights
  • Seeking ways to avoid the most serious penalties such as detention and working with prosecutors to explore options that provide your child with the rehabilitative services they need
  • Advocating on your child’s behalf for the best possible outcome

 Understanding the Juvenile Court System in New Jersey

If your son or daughter has been charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey, it is important that you know the facts and what to expect when navigating the juvenile justice system. A juvenile case begins when a minor, meaning a person under the age of 18, is taken into custody for an offense that would be considered a “crime” if committed by an adult.

Juveniles are not technically arrested, but “taken into custody” by police. There are a few things that can happen at this point, including a stationhouse adjustment or criminal charges being filed. If the young person is charged with a criminal offense, the matter will typically be referred to the Family Court in the county in which the child resides or is otherwise considered their county of original residence.

Stationhouse Adjustments

If your child is fortunate enough to gain favor with the police or their infraction is considered to be minor, they may be given a stationhouse adjustment. If this occurs, they will not go to court. Stationhouse adjustments allow early police intervention with the intention of diverting the case from court.

Instead of a delinquency action being filed, the police may have the minor do community service, repay a victim for any losses (restitution), or perform other measures designed to deter future acts of delinquency. Schools and police stations partner together, attempting to keep children out of the system without filing complaints with the juvenile court. However, sometimes a stationhouse adjustment is not available or permissible, and a criminal complaint is filed.

Juveniles Charged with Criminal Offenses

Once a criminal complaint is filed, it is sent to the county prosecutor’s office to be reviewed. Juvenile charges are normally brought in the county where the juvenile resides with their parents or guardians, rather than where the offense occurred. In certain instances, such as a case involving co-defendants from different counties, a judge may grant a motion to transfer the case to the county of the offense.

Under other circumstances, typically when the juvenile is near the age of 18 and/or when they are charged with a very serious crime, the prosecutor’s office may submit a motion that the juvenile be tried as an adult. If the motion is granted, the juvenile case will be transferred to adult criminal court, where all of the rules and penalties adult criminal defendants face apply.

Juvenile Court Rules and Standards

In juvenile court, many rules regarding trial and sentencing are different from adult courts. A juvenile criminal defendant is not entitled to a trial by jury in New Jersey. Juvenile court cases are decided by the presiding juvenile judge in Family Court. If a juvenile is found guilty, they are “adjudicated delinquent,” which is the equivalent of a conviction in adult court.

During sentencing, the judge’s priority is to promote the rehabilitation and reform of the young person. The overarching standard in New Jersey Juvenile Court is the best interests of the child. As such, there are a variety of sentencing alternatives available to juvenile defendants, including support services, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, and release to their parent or guardian.

However, there are many other serious consequences that juveniles face if they are found guilty, some of which include: restitution and fines, community service, probation, driver’s license suspension, and juvenile detention. An experienced NJ juvenile attorney at William Proetta Criminal Law can argue aggressively in favor of the juvenile’s innocence and work toward mitigating these potential penalties.

New Jersey Juvenile Sentencing Guidelines

Because the juvenile criminal justice system in New Jersey is focused on rehabilitation of an offender rather than punishment, juvenile courts have a wide variety of options that they can incorporate into a sentence. These options include:

  • Deferred disposition of charges, which allows for dismissal of a charge after a juvenile completes court-ordered requirements
  • Fines
  • Restitution payments to victims
  • Probation of up to three years
  • Community service obligations
  • Social support services
  • Mental health or substance abuse treatment
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Obligation to participate in work, vocational, or educational programs
  • Release to a parent or guardian
  • Transfer of custody to a relative or qualified guardian
  • Transfer of custody to the Department of Children and Families

Finally, courts can order juvenile detention or incarceration as part of a disposition. However, terms of detention can often be much shorter than the potential sentence terms that would be imposed on an adult for similar conduct. Juvenile sentencing guidelines in New Jersey include:

  • Petty disorderly persons offenses – Detention at the discretion of the court
  • Disorderly persons offenses – Up to six months’ detention
  • Fourth-degree crimes – Up to one year of detention
  • Third-degree crimes – Up to two years’ detention
  • Second-degree crimes – Up to three years’ detention
  • First-degree crimes – Up to four years’ detention
  • First-degree murder – Up to 20 years’ detention

Expungement of Juvenile Criminal Records

While juvenile delinquency records are confidential and only accessible to certain parties under certain circumstances, juvenile criminal records may show up on public background checks. This can make it difficult for young people to obtain housing, employment, or educational opportunities as they enter adulthood. Fortunately, a young person with a criminal record can obtain expungement of that record to seal it from public access.

A juvenile criminal record may generally be expunged three years after the young person has completed their sentence, including paying any fines or costs imposed as part of the sentence. In addition, a juvenile must meet other qualifications, including:

  • Not having been adjudicated delinquent for a criminal offense in the past three years
  • Not having been tried and convicted as an adult
  • Not having any pending criminal charges
  • Not having previously obtained expungement of an adult criminal record
  • Not having committed any offenses ineligible for expungement, such as homicide or aggravated sexual assault

Hudson County Juvenile Crime FAQs

We understand that you likely have many questions if your child has been accused of a crime. Some of the common questions we hear include:

While anyone under the age of 18 is normally entitled to go through the juvenile criminal justice system, under certain circumstances, the state may seek to try a juvenile in the adult criminal justice system. The prosecutor must file a motion for waiver of the case to the adult court within 60 days of the start of the case.

Only children 15 years old or older can be tried in adult criminal court. In addition, only certain offenses are eligible, including homicide, strict liability for drug-induced death, first-degree robbery, sexual assault, aggravated assault, carjacking, kidnapping, aggravated arson, and certain drugs and weapons offenses.

Typically, the prosecution must also demonstrate to the court that the possibility of rehabilitation is outweighed by the public interest or the risks to public safety by not trying the juvenile in the adult court system.

A juvenile criminal case can be handled in one of three ways:

  • First, a juvenile may be referred to an Intake Services Conference conducted by staff or a Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC) made up of citizen volunteers who work with all the parties involved to recommend a disposition of the case for the court’s approval.
  • Alternatively, a juvenile may be referred to a hearing before a referee, who will conduct a fact-finding hearing and recommend a disposition for the court’s approval.
  • Finally, a juvenile may go before a judge in a formal court hearing.

The process that will be used in a juvenile’s case will depend on the severity of the charge, the age of the juvenile, the juvenile’s prior record (if any), and the willingness of the juvenile’s family and the alleged victim(s) to cooperate on a resolution of the case.

A juvenile’s charges can be dropped when the state lacks sufficient evidence to support probable cause for the alleged offenses, including when evidence is excluded from the state’s case because it was obtained in violation of a juvenile’s constitutional or civil rights.

Prosecutors might also be willing to negotiate a disposition on a juvenile’s charges that avoids harsher penalties like detention and instead focuses on sentencing provisions aimed at rehabilitating the child and steering them away from future criminal behavior.

Get Straightforward Advice from a Hudson County Juvenile Crime Attorney Today

If your child has been taken into custody in Hudson County, get them the experienced legal advocacy they need to help protect their future. Contact William Proetta Criminal Law today for a free, confidential consultation to learn more about how a knowledgeable Hudson County juvenile crime attorney can assist your family during this difficult time.