In New Jersey, for an arrest of a juvenile to be made, probable cause must be present. Delinquency, under the law N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-23, is defined as the following if committed by an adult:
- A criminal act
- A disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense
- Violating any other penal statute, regulation or ordinance
A child can be arrested if an officer has reason to believe he or she is guilty of violating a criminal law or regulation.
Alternatives to an Actual Arrest
If the police believe an underage person has been engaging in juvenile conduct that may be considered dangerous and disruptive but might not be technically illegal, the officer can warn the juvenile on scene (a curbside adjustment) or bring the youth to the police station and conduct what is known as a “stationhouse adjustment.” This must be done with the approval of the parents or guardian, the juvenile and the victim of the crime, if any. As a result of this type of act, the matter might be referred to a social services agency or the juvenile may be enrolled in a program for counseling. Sometimes the infraction can be handled with something as simple as a letter of apology to the victim, by paying to repair the damage, or participation in community service. In addition, the juvenile will be warned of the possible consequences in the future of repeating the act or doing something worse and must agree not to commit another offense.
Filing a Delinquency Complaint and its Aftermath
An officer can file a formal complaint to charge the underage individual with juvenile delinquency following the requirements of NJ Court Rule 5:20-1. It doesn't necessarily have to be a police officer filing this complaint; it can be filed by a private citizen, a probation officer or a school official.
After the filing, the case will be sent to Family Court. There, a recommendation will be made as to whether the charges should be dismissed, diverted or placed on the schedule for the court to take action. There are many factors in coming to the decision on how to proceed with a juvenile. Taken into account will be the seriousness of the offense, the age and level of maturity of the individual who is accused of the act, whether he or she poses a threat to the community, and if the youth is agreeable to receive counseling or remedial education. The arresting officer, victim and prosecuting attorney will also play a role in the decision of what to do with the juvenile.
Parents Should Protect their Children with an Experienced Attorney
Simply because a child has been arrested—regardless of the crime— doesn't mean the parents or guardians should leave them at the mercy of the New Jersey legal system. It is imperative that a juvenile have competent legal representation and the lawyers of Villani & DeLuca of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey can provide that legal guidance no matter what the juvenile has been accused of.
Has your underage child been accused of a criminal act and arrested in New Jersey? If your underage youth has been arrested in Monmouth County or Ocean County in a town such as Brick, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Toms River, Point Pleasant or Belmar, contact Villani & DeLuca to discuss his or her options. Our attorneys offer free initial consultations to all new clients.