Young New Jersey residents under age 18 who have been accused of a crime are usually tried as minors in juvenile court, where punishments are more lenient and there is a heightened focus on rehabilitation. However, in some circumstances, adolescents are tried in the state’s adult court system, which can result in lifelong repercussions.
Juveniles Vs. Adults in New Jersey
Though consequences for adults are harsher, the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice provides that adults and juveniles (those under age 18) possess most of the same rights in the legal system. There are three key differences in that juveniles do not have the right to indictment, bail, or trial by jury.
Juveniles are not “arrested” in New Jersey; rather, they are simply taken into custody. If a juvenile is found guilty of the charges against them, they are considered an “adjudicated delinquent” rather than a convicted criminal. Adjudication is the juvenile equivalent of conviction in adult cases.
Juvenile adjudications can be erased, so that a young person does not enter adulthood bearing a criminal record. However, if an adolescent is tried in an adult court (or “criminal court”), and a conviction may result. If a criminal court conviction occurs, the resulting record may remain with a youth for a long period of time.
Juvenile Offenses in New Jersey
New Jersey’s legal system recognizes that some illegal acts are less serious than others, and should usually be treated as juvenile offenses. Some of the most common juvenile offenses are as follows:
- Simple assault or battery
- Alcohol, tobacco violations
- Possession of small amounts of marijuana
- Traffic violations
- Running away
- Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle