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Juvenile Charged as an Adult

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Juvenile Attorneys Defending Minors Facing Waivers into Adult Court in Burlington County, NJ

When a prosecutor is seeking to have a juvenile tried as an adult in New Jersey, the stakes become infinitely higher. Facing a grave possibility of adult criminal court and sentencing, it is crucial that you and your family speak with a juvenile defense attorney who can assist with your child’s case. A juvenile needs an accomplished lawyer to oppose the prosecutor’s motion. If your child is facing a motion to waive their juvenile case to adult criminal court in New Jersey, it is fundamental to their liberty and their future that you enlist help from the most aggressive, skillful, and well-versed juvenile defense lawyer for their case. Our juvenile attorneys at Proetta, Oliver & Fay have decades of combined experience handling juvenile waivers and defending juvenile clients who are ultimately tried as adults in New Jersey. With one of our partners, former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General William C. Fay providing key background and exceptional defense representation, the assets at our firm that become available to your minor son or daughter are manifold.

To discuss your child’s juvenile waiver matter and how we can assist with challenging the state’s contention that they be charged as an adult and tried before a jury, contact our local Evesham Township office at 609-850-8284 for a free consultation. A lawyer is available to speak to you free of charge and we frequently handle juvenile charges arising in Burlington County towns such as Cinnaminson, Bordentown, Mount Holly, Florence, Riverside, Mount Laurel, Pemberton, Willingboro, and Medford. Call today or send a message to learn more.

How Does New Jersey Usually Handle Juvenile Cases?

Juveniles, defined as those under 18 years old accused of committing an offense, appear in the Juvenile Division of the Family Court in New Jersey to have their crimes adjudicated. They are typically not tried in adult criminal court because the primary aim of juvenile court is rehabilitation. Thus, juveniles who get into legal trouble commonly receive services and alternative sentences to help them rehabilitate rather than jail sentences. And yet, the outcome of a juvenile case depends on their history, circumstances, and the alleged crimes they are charged with.

Juvenile matters are closed to the public, meaning only people involved in the case may attend hearings. In addition, all juveniles have attorneys, whether private attorneys hired by the family or a public defender appointed by the court for those juveniles whose parents cannot afford an attorney. 

When a minor is accused of committing an offense, the police may file a juvenile delinquency complaint. A family court judge then determines delinquency, in which case the matter proceeds to juvenile court in the family division of the superior court. If the case goes to juvenile court, several hearings occur. The first hearing concerns the mandatory assignment of counsel to the juvenile. If the case goes to a trial, the judge in the family court determines guilt or innocence and sentencing, not a jury. 

What are the Exceptional Circumstances for Charging Juveniles as Adults in New Jersey?

To try a juvenile as an adult, a prosecutor and the court must believe the youth is beyond rehabilitation or the crime is so egregious that it outweighs other factors for consideration. As such, the minor should be tried and sentenced as an adult to protect public safety. Factors that the prosecutor and court consider in deciding whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult are the nature of the crime, circumstances, and outcome. So, if someone died or was gravely injured, the juvenile used a weapon or played a leading role in committing the crime, or the youth has a history of crime, a court may send a juvenile case to adult court, especially if a conviction is likely. 

What Ages are Typically Involved in Juvenile Waivers in NJ?

A juvenile must be at least 15 to be tried as an adult. However, juveniles 16 or older are likelier to be tried as adults if they commit certain violent crimes. 

What Types of Criminal Charges are Usually Involved when a Juvenile is Tried as an Adult in NJ?

A juvenile may be charged as an adult if there is probable cause (reasonable suspicion) to believe the youth committed a heinous crime or crimes under certain conditions. For example, a juvenile is most likely to be tried in adult court for violent crimes, like murder, first degree robbery, drug-induced death, arson, carjacking, kidnapping, juvenile sexual assault, and aggravated sexual assault

In addition, a court will waive a juvenile to the criminal court if the minor has prior convictions for one or more of certain violent crimes; the youth committed a crime while serving a sentence in an adult prison; the juvenile was especially violent, willful or aggressive in committing an offense; the state accuses the youth of leading an illegal drug trafficking operation or an illegal drug distribution, manufacturing or or production operation; the juvenile committed the offense with a gun or while in possession of a firearm; the charge is auto theft; or the youth committed a first or second-degree computer crime.

What is the Process when a Prosecutor is Seeking to Waive a Juvenile Case to Adult Criminal Court in NJ?

The prosecutor initiates a juvenile waiver by asking the court permission to waive juvenile jurisdiction and send them to adult court. A waiver to adult criminal court means a judge does not try the juvenile’s case in juvenile court but in the adult criminal court, using the law applied to adults (N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26). The prosecutor has 60 days to file a waiver motion from receipt of the case.

What is the Significance of the E.S. Case?

In the case, State in the Interest of E.S., a juvenile, the court held that a family court judge may decide, given the circumstances of the case, which proceeding goes first when the state and juvenile have competing motions, the outcome of which depend on their timing and sequence. So, when the defense files a suppression motion to have evidence of a gun suppressed due to an illegal police seizure and the prosecution files a waiver motion, the family court can choose which action to hear first. 

Since the juvenile’s charges revolve around the gun, it would seem that the suppression motion should go first because then the state would not have a case to waive, and their request would be moot. However, since the juvenile’s adult co-defendant raised the same suppression motion in criminal court, the trial court allowed the waiver motion to go first. The court upheld the trial court’s decision but did note that a suppression motion should generally go first. 

The court’s ruling reinforces a juvenile’s right to challenge illegal evidence seizures by the state and not only avoid conviction, but also a waiver. Since the E.S. case rested on the circumstances of a co-defendant, the implication is that absent a co-defendant’s motion to suppress, the trial court should have heard the suppression motion first. 

What are the Factors Weighed in Juvenile Waiver Motion Decisions in New Jersey?

The court considers the nature and circumstances of the crime plus the youth’s record, age, maturity, intellectual capacity, involvement in the child welfare system, role in the crime, victim, criminal sophistication, and likelihood of becoming a productive citizen with the right resources and services, such as counseling, drug rehabilitation, and the like. In other words, the youth’s ability or inability to rehabilitate weighs against public safety concerns. 

What is the Prosecutor Required to Show to Try a Juvenile as an Adult in NJ?

In their motion, the prosecutor must prove the juvenile’s history and behavior pose a public safety threat and that the youth is unlikely to rehabilitate before turning 19. In other words, public safety warrants the state prosecuting a juvenile as an adult. 

What are the Juvenile’s Rights in this Process?

A juvenile has the right to counsel throughout the process and to testify. There is also a rebuttable presumption that a juvenile’s adult sentence may be served in a juvenile detention center, not in state prison, and that they may not be held in solitary confinement if imprisoned. Moreover, they have the right to present evidence showing they are amenable to rehabilitation and have mitigating circumstances to consider, such as childhood abuse, neglect, or other unfavorable conditions that deprived them of a healthy upbringing. A juvenile lawyer who knows how to handle juvenile waivers is critical at this time, as they can create a plan, assemble evidence, and argue zealously against the prosecutor’s motion to charge and try the minor as an adult.

Contact a Mount Holly Juvenile Defense Lawyer for Juveniles Charged as Adults in New Jersey

With knowledge of the law and procedures, our juvenile defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver & Fay can serve as your strongest ally when facing a juvenile waiver in Burlington County Superior Court or elsewhere in New Jersey. Contact us now for a free consultation with an experienced juvenile lawyer at 609-850-8284.

Contact Us

Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Jersey City, Edison, Middletown, Cranford, Burlington, and Hamilton. All major credit cards are accepted.

Burlington Office

525 Highway 73,
Suite 104, Marlton,
New Jersey 08053
Phone: 609-850-8284
By Appointment Only

Hamilton Office

100 Horizon Center
Boulevard, Hamilton,
New Jersey, 08691
By Appointment Only

Point Pleasant Office

3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
By Appointment Only

Middletown Office

180 Kings Highway,
Middletown Township,
New Jersey 07748
By Appointment Only