Why Is My Child Being Tried as an Adult?
In the state of New Jersey, minors under the age of 18 are usually adjudicated in the juvenile court system, where punishment is typically more lenient in favor of a focus on rehabilitation. However, there are some circumstances where juveniles may be transferred to adult court. When this happens, minors are subject to much harsher consequences – consequences that can forever alter their lives.
Having a child who has been arrested and charged with a criminal offense is not an easy experience for any parent, especially when courts seek to transfer a juvenile to adult court. At Brickfield & Donahue, our Bergen County criminal defense lawyers have experience representing both minors and adults, and have handled cases where the government sought transfers to adult court or processed minors through the adult system. We know the profound concerns parents have in these situations, and we leverage our insight as former prosecutors and Criminal Trial Law Specialists by the Supreme Court of New Jersey to guide them through their legal journeys.
If your child is under the age of 18 and has been taken into custody, there is the possibility their case may be handled in the state’s adult criminal court system. Under a new law that took effect in March of 2016, only minors over the age of 14 can be transferred to adult courts, provided that they were charged with one or more qualifying offenses. These include:
- Criminal homicide (with the exception of vehicular homicide)
- Armed robbery / first-degree robbery / carjacking
- Sexual assault / aggravated sexual assault
- Second-degree aggravated assault
- Strict liability in cases involving drug-induced deaths
- Aggravated arson
- Possession of a firearm while committing certain serious offenses or with intent to harm another
- Attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above crimes
Because these offenses are considered violent and serious crimes, they may subject minors to adult criminal charges – and therefore adult criminal penalties, including lengthy terms of imprisonment. When these circumstances exist, prosecutors may choose to seek a judicial waiver – which must be filed within 60 days – to turn the case over to adult criminal court
Because there is discretion and the ability to provide mitigating evidence as to a minor’s involvement in a crime, there may be opportunity to work with prosecutors and judges to keep a minor in the juvenile justice system, where they can benefit from a greater focus on rehabilitation, less severe consequences than those imposed in adult court, and the eventual expungement of their criminal record. Minors who do not serve time in adult facilities are also more likely to become healthy and productive members of society.
With such life-altering repercussions on the line, it becomes important for families to do all they can in protecting their child’s rights and future. If you have questions about juvenile criminal defense, or wish to discuss a potential case where your child may be charged as an adult anywhere in New Jersey, do not hesitate to contact our legal team for a FREE consultation.