Juveniles may find themselves entering New Jersey’s juvenile law system for anything from a curfew violation to underage drinking and driving or any number of typical — or even not-so-typical — juvenile crimes. While we’ve previously discussed some of the major differences in how the law treats juveniles as opposed to adults, our Morristown readers may still have questions about just how the system works, starting from an initial arrest.
When a juvenile is charged with a delinquent act, he or she may either proceed into custody or may be diverted by a law enforcement officer. Diversion could mean simply being released to a parent or legal guardian at that point. It could also mean the involvement of Juvenile/Family Crisis Intervention Units. JFCIUs intervene in situations with runaways, dangerous family conflicts and other family problems. They will typically work to connect the juvenile and family members with crisis intervention and other support services in the community.
Juveniles who do not enter diversion may be detained, but New Jersey law requires that they either:
- Pose a danger to their community, or
- Are considered at risk of not appearing in court.
Some juveniles may also be held once their case has been decided and they are awaiting placement with one program or another. Juvenile detention facilities are typically run by the county, but the State does ensure that certain minimum standards are met.
After a juvenile has either been diverted or detained, the next step will be the court process — or family court process, again depending on the circumstances of the alleged delinquency. We’ll take a look at this in a follow-up post, but would remind our readers in the meantime that this discussion is intended as general information only and not as specific legal advice.