In New Jersey, when a juvenile is charged with a crime, the first and preferred choice is usually treatment over incarceration. For a youth under the age of 18, the justice system is more lenient than it is for adults and leans more toward rehabilitation, intervention, counseling and amicable resolution of the issue.
In some cases, however, the case cannot be settled by such options and there must be a plea deal or a trial. Sentencing for a youth can vary depending on the severity of the act, the wishes of the prosecutor, the victim’s influence and how the court feels about the case. In general, the presiding judge has a great deal of flexibility in coming to a decision.
Disposition Hearing in a Juvenile Trial
If a youth pleads guilty or is found guilty at a trial and is deemed adjudicated, the next step is a disposition hearing. The judge must review the punishments and penalties applicable to the case and come to a decision as to what the penalties will be. Before the judge makes a ruling, there might be an examination of reports from several agencies and people in the community to see what the chances are for the youth to be able to overcome the problems without detention. The prosecutor, probation division of the county, youth services, police, family and others may be communicated with to make a reasonable judgment.
In cases where the juvenile faces detention, a pre-disposition report might be referred to by the judge to understand the existing mitigating factors such as family life, the history of the child, school records, psychological and emotional analysis by a qualified professional and possibly a statement from the victim of the criminal act that led to the arrest. New Jersey law states that if the child is in custody, a disposition must occur within 30 days after the plea or finding of guilt. If a sentence is not given during that time period, a date will be set within 10 days for sentencing. If the juvenile is not in custody, the court has 60 days to pronounce a sentence.
Factors of Disposition
There are many factors that come into focus when a disposition is made. They can include the following:
- The circumstances and nature of the criminal offense
- The impact of the offense on the community
- The threat the youth has on the public
- How the offense impacted the victim or victims
- The youth’s relevant history
- The needs of the child physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically
- Whether there is reasonable participation on the part of the parents or guardians
- Whether the disposition supports the safety and well-being of the youth and if the disposition will assist the strength and unity of the family
- The age of the youth and his or her prior record
- The degree of damage and/or injury the offense caused
Possible Incarceration of the Juvenile
The judge can decide that the youth must be detained for the good of everyone involved. If the crime was particularly egregious and the child shows little to no remorse, or there is a likelihood that he or she will do something just as bad or worse and treatment would be unhelpful, a sentence of detention is likely. The juvenile’s behavior and attitude following the arrest plays a role in this decision.
The judge has a wide range of options in coming to a conclusion as to how the youth should be punished. In most cases, sentences without incarceration for all but the most horrible crimes will be preferable to provide the juvenile and his family an opportunity to straighten his or her life out. Psychiatric treatment, enrollment in a drug or alcohol program and other types of intervention sometimes work in helping a youth who might have made a one-time mistake and will be better served to be treated rather than detained.
Speak to an Experienced Attorney in New Jersey
If you have a child who has been convicted of a crime and is facing disposition and possible incarceration, it is important to have a qualified lawyer helping with the case. The lawyers at Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey have extensive experience with New Jersey law and can assist you in your time of need.
Whether the charge occurred in Monmouth County or Ocean County, Villani & DeLuca will be happy to consult with you and answer your questions in regards to a juvenile offense and disposition. The right choice in a lawyer can help your child avoid possible incarceration. Call Villani & DeLuca today!