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What to do if your teenager is arrested

It can be a nightmare for parents when they receive a call that their child has been arrested. What should you do?

Of course, it is going to depend on what the charges are, but you would be wise to contact an attorney. Most parents are concerned not only about what is going to happen in court, but they may also be concerned about their child having a criminal record going forward. Knowing how New Jersey handles juvenile cases all of a sudden becomes very important.

A juvenile, per the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice is "any individual who is under the age of eighteen years." When a complaint is filed -- either by an officer of the law or by a citizen -- against a juvenile, the Family Court, who has jurisdiction over juvenile cases, can adjudicate the case and enter a disposition. In juvenile cases, an adjudication of a juvenile delinquent, or a guilty plea, is a finding that the juvenile is guilty of the charge.

Juvenile delinquents are not usually considered criminals in New Jersey or penalized the same as criminal convictions; however, either a prosecutor or the juvenile can elect to have the case transferred to an adult court. This can take place for any juvenile who is 14 years old or older and is facing an act of delinquency. It can also occur for younger individuals if they are charged with a murder.

Prosecutor's have the right to make a motion to transfer a case without consent from the juvenile. When a motion is granted to transfer a case to an adult court, the Family Court waives their jurisdiction. Then the jurisdiction is transferred to the proper court.

Adult cases are treated much different than juvenile cases. One difference is that a juvenile's record is stored in a different system than an adult record. Adult records are public, where juvenile records are not unless they are adjudicated as delinquent.

Having an attorney represent your loved one, whether they are facing traffic violations such as a DUI, or other juvenile crimes, can help protect them from collateral damages. As a parent, you will want to do all you can to preserve their good name and get them back on the right path.

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