As Burlington County Juvenile Lawyers, we understand that the last thing parents want is a criminal charge filed against their child that could threaten his or her freedom and future. For this reason, we make it our responsibility to counsel our clients through every phase in the juvenile case process, from the initial complaint filed by the prosecutor to the disposition hearing.
Filing the Delinquency Complaint
This judicial process begins when someone accuses a child of committing an illegal act according to New Jersey law, such as shoplifting or underage drinking. To formally press delinquency charges, this individual will file a complaint that is then signed by a third party. In most cases, these complaints are signed by a member of the police based on either their personal observation of the delinquency act or information provided by victims. School officials and probation officers can also sign a complaint. Once this complaint is signed, it is sent to Formal Court intake staff for their review and a decision on how the case should be handled.
Juvenile Custody & Detention
In some cases, while the Family Court reviews a minor’s case, he or she may be taken into juvenile custody. The decision whether to detain a minor or not is based on the nature of the offense they are being charged with, if the juvenile is considered a danger to the community, or if there is a chance that the juvenile will fail to appear for their scheduled court date.
Parents whose son or daughter has been detained at the Burlington County Juvenile Detention Center often ask us whether they can post bail for their child. To their surprise, the answer is no. There is no bail option available for juveniles in New Jersey. Juveniles are governed by the Juvenile Justice Code (“JJC”), N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-20 to -90. The JCC does not provide Juveniles with the right to bail under N.J.S.A. 2A: 4A-60. While this may seem harsh at first blush, the court and statute allow for the release of juveniles without bail.
The Initial Detention Hearing
Once a juvenile is taken into custody, their parents or guardians are notified immediately and an initial detention hearing must be held no later than the morning following the juvenile’s placement in a detention facility. This is the juvenile judge’s first opportunity to determine whether the juvenile can be released. Factors considered during the hearing include the charges against the juvenile, the seriousness of these charges, the ability of a parent or guardian to monitor or supervise the juvenile, and the safety and welfare of the public.
The Probable Cause Hearing
If the juvenile is not released after the initial hearing, a probable cause hearing is scheduled within two (2) court days. At a probable cause, the juvenile is represented by an attorney. The juvenile judge, again, will consider the juvenile’s potential release from custody. Release from detention can be in the form of house arrest, Electronic Monitoring (ankle bracelet), or some other variation of release that the court deems appropriate. If the juvenile is not released at the probable cause hearing, the court will schedule periodic reviews of the juvenile’s matter. At each hearing, the juvenile’s detention status is evaluated with an eye toward release and alternative detention.