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JUVENILE DELINQUENCY


This site is designed to provide you with some general information about the court process and answer some frequently asked questions about juvenile delinquency matters.

This site may not contain all of the questions you may have regarding juvenile delinquency matters. In juvenile matters, the court's goals are rehabilitation and accountability. The court handles each case on an individual basis according to the law and based on the individual circumstances of the case.

Juvenile Deliquency Proceedings and your Child
A Guide for Parents and Guardians Pamphlet

Procedimientos por delincuencia juvenil
y su menor
Una guía para padres y tutores

Click here for a brief overlook of the Juvenile
Justice Process


This web page will take you through what happens to a child
when he or she commits a crime in New Jersey.

Contact Information:

Atlantic County Civil Courts Building
Oscleeta Summers (609) 594-3305
Joleen Peterson (609) 594-3318

Cape May Courthouse
Shirley Robinson (609) 463-6612

Juvenile Overview

Court Process/Overview

Representation Questions

Diversion or Detainment

Probation

Expungement/Records


WHAT IS JUVENILE DELINQUENCY?

Delinquency is defined as an act by a juvenile under the age of 18 that if committed by an adult would constitute a crime, a disorderly persons offense, a petty disorderly persons offense, or a violation of any other penal statute, ordinance or regulation.

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WHO SIGNS JUVENILE DELINQUENCY COMPLAINTS?
The police either based on personal knowledge or information supplied by others signs most juvenile complaints. School officials and/or victims of crimes may also sign complaints.  In cases of Contempt of Court or violation of probation, a probation officer signs the complaint.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
A decision is made by the Family Court staff as to whether the complaint will be diverted (see 5A and 5B below) or be heard by a juvenile hearing officer or a judge (see 5C and 5D below). The decision as to whether to divert or refer to court is based on the severity of the offense, age of the juvenile and prior record.

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WHAT ARE THE COURT'S GOALS IN RESOLVING JUVENILE DELINQUENCY CASES?

In juvenile matters, the court's goals are rehabilitation and accountability. The court handles each case on an individual basis according to the law and based on the individual circumstances of the case.

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WHY IS MY CHILD IN THE COURT SYSTEM?

Your child will be appearing in court because someone has accused your child of committing an act that is against the law in New Jersey. The court will provide you with a copy of the complaint, a legal court document describing the alleged illegal conduct. In the majority of cases, police sign complaints based on either personal observation or information supplied by others such as victims. Complaints also can be signed by school officials or victims or by probation officers in cases of violations of probation

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CAN MY CHILD BE HELD IN A JUVENILE FACILITY BASED UPON THE SIGNING OF A COMPLAINT?

A child may be taken into custody and held in a juvenile facility based on the nature of the offense, the need to protect society, a past record of adjudications of delinquency, a recent failure to appear at court proceedings, or failure to remain where placed by the court or court intake service. If your child is not held in a shelter or detention setting, you will receive notice of when and where to appear to address the charge(s).

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DOES MY CHILD NEED A LAWYER?

You are always allowed to hire an attorney for any court appearance in Juvenile Court.  However, in all Formal and Counsel Mandatory Court proceedings, your child must  have an attorney.  Other complaints (Listed below as diversion) do not require that an attorney be present.  If there is a threat of incarcerations, the Court will require that an attorney represent your child.

If your child is required to have an attorney, you will be expected to retain one, if you can afford to do so. If you think you cannot afford one, you will need to fill out an application (5A form) to determine your eligibility for a Public Defender. If you do qualify (eligibility is determined by using the Federal poverty guidelines) a $50 assessment fee per applicant is required by the Public Defender. However, if you do not qualify, you must hire a private attorney.

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WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD IS DETAINED? CAN I ARRANGE FOR BAIL?

No, bail is not available for juveniles. The right to bail is not extended to juveniles under N.J.S.A. 2A: 4A-60. During each step of the court process the Judge makes a decision on whether or not the child can be released back into the community, based on the seriousness of the complaint against your child, and your child's prior record. The right to bail is not extended to juveniles under N.J.S.A. 2A: 4A-60. During each step of the court process the Judge makes a decision on whether or not the child can be released back into the community, based on the seriousness of the complaint against your child, and your child's prior record.

A.  An initial detention hearing must be held no later than the morning following the child's placement in the detention facility. At the initial detention hearing, the first decision about releasing your child is made by a Judge. If your child's detention is continued after the hearing, the court will schedule a Probable Cause hearing, which will be held within two court days. At that time an attorney will represent the child. A parent is expected to be at any hearing involving the child.  

(Atlantic County) If you child is held during the week, you should be in court the morning following your child's arrest. On the weekends and holidays, contact the Harborfields Detention Center at (609) 965-3011.

(Cape May County) If you child is held during the week, you should be in court the morning following your child's arrest. On the weekends and holidays, contact the Cumberland County Detention Facility at 1-856-455-0717 ext 12.

B.  Probable cause means the prosecutor must present enough evidence to satisfy the Judge that the offense did happen and that there is reason to believe that your child was the one who committed this offense. 

C.  The Judge will then decide whether to continue holding your child in detention or if it is appropriate to release them into one of our alternative to detention programs, i.e., HEDS (home electronic device system),  In Home Detention Program or Ministers Home Detention Project. Upon completion of the hearing the court will schedule a pre-trial conference hearing (next court date).

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WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD IS NOT RELEASED AFTER THE INITIAL DETENTION HEARING?

If your child is not released following the initial detention hearing, another hearing will be held within two working days, unless waived. At that time, your child must be represented by an attorney. The judge will decide whether to continue holding your child in detention. At the hearing, the prosecutor must present enough evidence to satisfy the judge that the offense occurred and that there is enough reason to believe that your child committed the offense. If the judge is not satisfied on either count, then the judge could dismiss the complaint. If the judge is satisfied with the evidence presented, the case will be scheduled for a hearing. If your child is held, a detention review hearing with your child's attorney present must be held within 14 days of the prior hearing. If your child stays in detention, the judge must hold detention review hearings every 21 court days (or less).

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WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD IS RELEASED AFTER THE INITIAL DETENTION HEARING?

If your child is not released following the initial detention hearing, a probable cause hearing will be held within two working days, unless waived. At that time, your child must be represented by an attorney.

A. Probable cause means the prosecutor must present enough evidence to satisfy the Judge that the offense did happen and that there is reason to believe that your child was the one who committed this offense.

B. The Judge will then decide whether to continue holding your child in detention or if it is appropriate to release them into one of our alternative to detention programs, i.e., HEDS (home electronic device system), In Home Detention Program, Ministers Home Detention Project or Youth Shelter . Upon completion of the hearing the court will schedule a pre-trial conference hearing (next court date).

C. If your child is held, a detention review hearing with your child's attorney present, must be held within 14 days of the prior hearing. If your child stays in detention, the judge must hold detention review hearings every 21 court days (or less).

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WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Court personnel will review the matter and determine how the case will be handled.

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WHAT IS DIVERSION?

The reviewers of the complaint have determined that the charge is not serious enough to require going before a judge or juvenile referee, so the matter is sent to an alternative program such as a Juvenile Conference Committee for potential resolution.

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HOW CAN THE COURT PROCESS MY CHILD'S CASE?

The court makes decisions on how cases are handled based on the nature and seriousness of the offense, age of your child, any prior record, and willingness of parties to cooperate. Cases are handled in one of the following ways.

A.  Juvenile Conference Committee-   Juvenile Conference Committee are comprised of trained citizen volunteer members, appointed by the Family Division Judge, that acts as an arm of the Court. This committee is comprised of citizens who reside in your own municipality. The parent, the juvenile and the complainant/victim are invited to voluntarily discuss with the committee the offense and other related factors. The committee does not have the authority to determine guilt or innocence. This is an informal discussion of the events and all parties must be in agreement with the handling of the case.  The committee considers the facts and then makes a recommendation for a resolution that aids in the juvenile's rehabilitation. A resolution will be proposed which may include conditions such as curfew, counseling, evaluation, community service, restitution or any recommendations which will aid in the juvenile's rehabilitation. If all participants (the parent, the juvenile, the complainant/victim and the Juvenile Conference Committee) agree on the proposed recommendation, an agreement is signed which included a time frame for completion.  The committee sends this agreement with its recommendations to the Judge and if the Judge approves the recommendations become a court order which is monitored by the Juvenile Conference Committee. Upon successful completion of the conditions, the case is dismissed.

The coordinator for the Juvenile Conference Committee in Family Court is Beth Beal-Williams, (609) 594-3536.

B.  Intake Services Conference - The Intake Services Conference is conducted by a professional Family Court staff person and operates in the same manner as the Juvenile Conference Committee, except that the process is overseen from start to finish by a professional from the Family Court staff in our office at 1201 Bacharach Blvd.,
Atlantic City, NJ.

C. Juvenile Hearing Officer or Informal/Counsel Non- Mandatory Court -- The Juvenile Hearing Officer is a person whose qualifications have been approved by the Supreme Court. The Juvenile Hearing Officer will make a finding regarding guilt or innocence. He/she will make a recommendation to the Judge regarding the consequences to your child. Your child may have an attorney for the court hearing but it is not required and the court will not provide an attorney. If you disagree with the Juvenile Hearing Officer, you must advise the H.O. at the end of your hearing and the Judge will hear the matter at a later date in a Formal/Counsel Mandatory hearing and an attorney must represent your child.

D. Formal or Counsel Mandatory - Only a Judge may preside over a formal case. Your child must have an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you will need to fill out an application form for a Public Defender. Your child will be required to plead either guilty or not guilty. If your child pleads not guilty, a trial will be scheduled. Upon a finding of guilt, the judge will determine the disposition or consequences.

WHAT IS THE FAMILY CRISIS INTERVENTION UNIT?

FCIU petitions are matters signed by the FCIU. The Petition alleges a youngster is involved in a status behavior,  such as truancy, runaway or incorrigibility  The matter involves the whole family and will result in a hearing before the Judge, which may include a stay at the youth shelter or compliance with recommendations by the FCIU.

For information about the Atlantic County program, please call the family crisis intervention unit at (609) 645-5861.
For information about the Cape May County program, please call the family crisis intervention unit at (609) 465-1374.

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CAN A JUVENILE BE TRIED AS AN ADULT?

Yes, in some cases a juvenile may waive his rights and request the matter be tried in the Criminal Court. Anyone over 14 who is charged with a 1st or 2nd degree offense is subject to the prosecutor filing a motion to have the charges moved to the Criminal Court. Before this is approved a Family Court Judge will have to conduct a hearing and agree to the motion.

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WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD AND I CANNOT KEEP A COURT DATE?

A summons/notice and complaint will be provided to you in advance of the scheduled court dates. It is the responsibility of you or your lawyer, if you have one, to notify the court when you cannot appear. In the case of a non-court appearance, a warrant may be issued for your child.

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CAN MY CHILD OR I PRESENT WITNESSES?

Juvenile Conference Committee/Intake Services Conference - Juvenile Conference Committee and staff who conduct Intake Services Conferences are not finders of fact nor do they determine guilt or innocence. Witnesses are not sworn and there is no authority at this level for witnesses to attend. Since the process is based on everyone being in agreement, generally witnesses are not necessary. If there is a dispute about the facts of the case, it would need to be returned to court.

Juvenile Hearing Officer or Informal/Counsel Non-Mandatory Court - You may bring witnesses to the hearing, however, the Juvenile Hearing Officer will decide whether, and to what extent, the witnesses will be heard. Family Court staff should always be notified in advance of any witnesses being brought before the court.

Formal or Counsel Mandatory - Your child's Attorney should be advised of any witnesses

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WHAT HAPPENS AT THE HEARING?

If the judge finds that your child has committed the offense(s) charged, the judge will enter a finding known as an adjudication and make a decision known as entering a disposition.

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WHAT DISPOSITIONS OR CONSEQUENCES CAN THE COURT IMPOSE ON MY CHILD?

The dispositions and consequences that the court could impose on your child in order to rehabilitate him/her and prevent future delinquency include but are not limited to:

• adjourned disposition;
• community service;
• diversion;
• fines;
• probation;
• release to parent or guardian;
• required support services;
• required parental involvement;
• residential mental health and/or substance abuse and alcohol treatment;
• restitution;
• transfer of custody;
• secure confinement/incarceration;
• suspension of driver's license; and
• work, outdoor, academic, and/or vocational programs.

*There are some mandatory types of sentences in Juvenile Court. If your child is guilty of drug or alcohol related offenses, there are certain monetary fines which must be imposed by the court.  A minimum of $30 per charge will be accessed for each case the juvenile plead to or was found guilty of.

All information regarding your child's delinquency complaint will be strictly safeguarded from public inspection, and all Court hearings will be closed to the public. However, if your child is found guilty of a first, second or third degree offense, aggravated assault, or destruction or damage to property in excess of $500,  your child's charges, the Judge's finding, and sentence will be disclosed to the public. To prevent this, your child must establish to the Judge at the time of sentencing that there is a substantial likelihood that specific and extraordinary harm would result from such disclosure.

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WHAT HAPPENS IF I DISAGREE WITH THE OUTCOME OF MY CHILD'S CASE?

At any time during the Juvenile Conference Committee or Intake Services Conference process, even after signing the Agreement/Order your child has the right to end the process and request that the matter is returned to court.

If you disagree with the findings of the Juvenile Hearing Officer, you must advise the Juvenile Hearing Officer at the conclusion of the hearing.

If after a hearing before a judge, you have the right to appeal the findings of the court within 45 days.

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MY CHILD HAS BEEN PLACED ON PROBATION, WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

You will be directed to the Probation Dept. immediately upon completion of the court hearing with a copy of the court ordered disposition. A Probation Officer will be assigned to your child and all rules of probation will be explained.  Any questions regarding probation should be directed to your child's probation officer. For general information on Juvenile Probation, click here.

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WILL A JUVENILE RECORD AUTOMATICALLYGET ERASED AT THE AGE OF 18 YEARS OLD?

No, juvenile records may be released to law enforcement agencies, state and federal government agencies for the purpose of licensing, bonding and certification.

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CAN A JUVENILE RECORD BE EXPUNGED?

In most cases, the answer is yes. However, certain offenses are excluded from being expunged. You will either need to hire an attorney or do the necessary legal paperwork without an attorney (known as "pro se"). The paperwork can be obtained at the Mays Landing Court House, Criminal Division. The judge in the Criminal Division makes the decision on whether an expungement is granted. For general information regarding expungements, click here.

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ARE JUVENILE COURT RECORDS CONFIDENTIAL?

Under New Jersey law, juvenile records are available only to certain judicial, law enforcement, and governmental agencies as specified in N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60. Any other agency or person can only have access to the records by making a motion before a judge for good cause. You should be aware that the charge, adjudication, and disposition information is available to victims, law enforcement agencies, and schools. Further, if your child applies for certain types of military, government, or law enforcement services, he or she may be asked to disclose his or her juvenile record.

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WILL THERE BE A RECORD OF MY CHILD'S FINGERPRINTS AND DNA?

Yes, in most cases there will be a record of your child's fingerprints and DNA. Juveniles who are found to be delinquent for an act that if committed by an adult would be a crime by law must provide fingerprints and a DNA sample. You should ask your child's lawyer about your child's situation.

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REMINDERS
• You should always make certain that the court system in addition to your child's attorney has your correct address and telephone number. Contact the number listed on the court notice or the Juvenile Intake Unit (Atlantic -(609) 594-3314, Cape - (609) 463-6612) to advise of any changes to your child's address and/or telephone number.
• If you think that you or your child has been treated unfairly or disrespectfully, you can contact the family division manager or ombudsman.
• At any time during a juvenile justice proceeding, your child has the right to legal representation.

* It is your responsibility to have your child present at all Court Hearings. Failure to do so may result in a bench warrant being issued for your child.

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