Young offender covering ears during police interrogation

Middlesex County Juvenile Defense Lawyer

It can be incredibly upsetting to see your child facing juvenile delinquency charges. The Middlesex County juvenile defense attorneys at William Proetta Criminal Law are ready to provide guidance, support, and legal advice during this challenging time.

With compassion and dedication, we can help you navigate the complexities of the juvenile justice system, advocate for your child’s rights, and work toward securing the best possible outcome for their future.

Contact our Middlesex County, NJ, juvenile defense lawyer today for a free and confidential case review.

Types of Juvenile Crime Cases in Middlesex County

Our juvenile defense attorney in Middlesex County, New Jersey, handles cases involving all types of juvenile charges, including the following examples:

Juvenile Criminal Law in Middlesex County, NJ

For many families, their first interaction with the juvenile justice system can be confusing and overwhelming. We can help guide you through the system and the process.

Each New Jersey county has its own Superior Court system consisting of divisions for different cases. One such division is family court, where all juvenile cases are tried. Middlesex County’s juvenile justice system is entirely separate from the adult criminal system. If a child under 18 is charged with a delinquent act that would be considered a crime if an adult did it, they will be tried in family court. However, if the child is over 14 and charged with certain more serious offenses, the prosecutor can request the case be transferred to adult criminal court.

  • The juvenile court process begins with an allegation of delinquency.
  • From there, a law enforcement officer could take the juvenile into custody and sign a delinquency complaint.
  • However, in some situations, the officer may opt to release the juvenile to their parent or guardian with a curbside warning or conduct a station house adjustment. A station house adjustment allows an officer to prevent juveniles who commit minor or first-time offenses from entering the juvenile justice system. Instead, the officer orders the child to complete some obligation, such as community service or restitution to the victim.
  • If the officer files a delinquency complaint, the court will hold an initial detention hearing within 24 hours. New Jersey law reserves detention for juveniles who threaten the community’s safety or demonstrate a willful failure to appear in court.
  • If the court orders the juvenile detained, their initial probable cause hearing should occur within two days, at which the judge will decide again whether to detain or release the juvenile.
  • If the juvenile remains in detention while awaiting adjudication, a detention review hearing will occur within 14 days and every month after that.
  • The next step is the adjudication hearing, where the court will determine whether the juvenile is delinquent or dismiss charges. If the juvenile is adjudicated delinquent, the judge will order a disposition.

Differences Between Adult and Juvenile Criminal Cases

Adult and juvenile criminal cases are different in several ways:

  • Purpose – The purposes of the adult and juvenile justice systems are very different. While the adult system seeks to punish and deter criminal behavior, the juvenile system seeks to preserve the unity of the family, promote the child’s welfare and best interests, and rehabilitate the child into a “responsible and productive” member of the community.
  • Terminology – Adult and juvenile criminal cases use different terminology. For example, adults get arrested, whereas juveniles are taken into custody. Adults commit crimes and receive sentences. Juveniles commit delinquent acts and receive dispositions.
  • Bail – Adults released awaiting trial may have to post monetary bail to ensure they return for their court appearances. Juveniles, on the other hand, do not have to post bail when released to a parent or guardian.
  • Consequences – The consequences in adult criminal cases are more severe than in juvenile ones. Furthermore, New Jersey law requires that juvenile records be “strictly safeguarded” from the public except in certain circumstances.

While most juveniles are tried in family court, some juvenile cases could be transferred to adult court. Under New Jersey law, the juvenile must be at least 15 years old at the time of the alleged delinquent act to be tried as an adult. There must also be probable cause that the juvenile committed a serious delinquent act that could constitute an adult crime, such as:

  • Criminal homicide
  • First-degree robbery
  • Second-degree aggravated assault
  • Drug trafficking
  • Carjacking
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated arson
  • Weapons possession while committing certain crimes

How Our Middlesex County Juvenile Defense Attorney Can Help Your Child

Our juvenile defense attorney can play a crucial role in protecting the rights and interests of your child. Here are several ways that we can assist during this difficult time:

  • Advocate for pre-adjudication release or diversion options
  • Fight to keep your child’s case in family court
  • Investigate the facts of your child’s case
  • Gather evidence and expert testimony to support your child’s interests
  • Build a strong defense against an adjudication of delinquency
  • Argue that the least serious, most compassionate disposition is in your child’s best interests

Understanding Juvenile Sentencing Guidelines in New Jersey

The New Jersey Sentencing Guidelines provide judges with a wide range of dispositions to impose on a juvenile that do not involve detention. Potential dispositions include:

  • Deferred disposition for up to 12 months
  • Release to a parent or guardian
  • Transfer of care to another relative or appropriate guardian
  • Probation with court-ordered conditions for up to three years
  • Placement with the Department of Children and Families
  • Placement in a hospital or facility for children with mental illness
  • Restitution to the victims
  • Community service
  • Participation in work, life-skills, survival, outdoor, academic, or vocational programs
  • Placement in an alcohol or drug treatment program
  • Placement in a private group home or residential facility
  • Driver’s license postponement, suspension, or revocation for up to two years

Depending on the facts of the case, the court may order detention or incarceration. The following maximum terms apply for first-time offenses:

  • Fourth-degree offense – Up to 12 months (18 months for adults)
  • Third-degree offense – Up to 2 years (5 years for adults)
  • Second-degree offense – Up to 3 years (10 years for adults)
  • First-degree crimes other than murder – Up to 4 years (20 years for adults)
  • Felony murder – Up to 10 years (life sentence for adults)
  • Knowing/purposeful murder – Up to 20 years (life sentence for adults)

Speak with a Middlesex County Attorney About Your Juvenile Crime Case Today

Our Middlesex County juvenile defense attorney understands the emotional impact that delinquency charges can have on your child and family. William Proetta Criminal Law provides effective legal representation with empathy and reassurance while striving to protect your child’s immediate and long-term interests.

Contact William Proetta Criminal Law today to speak with our Middlesex County, NJ, juvenile defense lawyer about your child’s case. The consultation is free, confidential, and comes without strings attached.