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What happens to a juvenile after an arrest in New Jersey?

If you're a parent, one of the worst phone calls you can get is one telling you that your child has been picked up by the police. Suddenly, his or her fate is out of your control. Everything is in the hands of the state and you aren't sure what is going to happen next or what you can do to protect your child.

Here are the basics you need to know:

The police do have some authority over the situation

If your child is picked up on a minor offense, there is a possibility that the police will release him or her into your custody. It depends a lot on the nature of the crime (how serious it is, including whether or not anyone was injured) and any prior run-ins your child has had with the law.

If released, you may be required to interact with a crisis intervention team until the situation with your child and/or family is resolved.

If your child is not released, he or she will be charged as a delinquent

Assuming that the crime is not severe and the issue of moving it to adult court doesn't come up, you can likely expect the following:

  • If it is your child's first offense, you can expect a Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC) worker to be involved. This is a diversion program designed to get your child back on track and out of the court system.
  • If it is a second offense or slightly more serious, an intake conference will be likely be scheduled. The intake team will make a recommendation to the court on how to handle the case but your child may still be sent through a diversion program in the end.
  • If your child's offense is bad enough or there's a question about whether or not your child is a danger to the community, detention in a locked facility is likely. Detention will continue until the family court judge decides how to proceed.

Keep in mind that the laws in New Jersey require the courts to avoid locking up a juvenile whenever possible. If that's the procedure recommended, your child is in very serious trouble.

No matter what your child's offense, it's important to protect his or her rights from the start. It's wise to consult an attorney familiar with juvenile crimes and the juvenile court system as soon as possible.

Source: The State of New Jersey, Office of the Attorney General, "Moving through the JJC System," accessed March 30, 2018

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