Most cases involving accusations that minors have broken a criminal law are handled in family court, where there is an emphasis placed on rehabilitation rather than punishment for younger offenders. However, some juvenile crimes are serious enough to be tried in the New Jersey criminal courts, and in these cases, the State can request that the case be moved from family court to adult court. This process for moving a matter from family court to adult court is known as a juvenile waiver. Because a decision regarding whether to issue such a waiver is based on multiple factors, it can be difficult for parents and young offenders to understand what is required and what happens once the waiver is issued.
What is a Juvenile Waiver?
A juvenile waiver is issued when the state’s prosecution team wants to prosecute a minor in an adult criminal court rather than in the family court. In order to request this, the state must file a waiver motion and a hearing is scheduled in the family court to determine whether the move should be made.
This hearing is a crucial step for the juvenile accused of breaking the law. At this hearing, the juvenile’s defense attorney will make the argument that the case should remain in family court, where the defendant would face lighter penalties and shortened jail or rehabilitation sentences. Many younger people respond to rehabilitation, and family court sentences typically include making restitution, performing community service, and, if necessary, attending rehabilitation counseling as penalties for juvenile delinquency.
A juvenile who is tried as an adult will be sentenced as an adult, if he or she is found guilty. For this reason, it is critical that the attorney uses this hearing to outline why the case should stay where it is to avoid the juvenile being sentenced to maximum jail times and fines.
State of New Jersey in the Interest of N.H.
Prior to 2016, the rules for discovery were unclear when a juvenile waiver was issued. Juveniles, depending on their particular cases, may or may not have access to the full evidence involved in the case. However, in the State of New Jersey in the Interest of N.H., a case involving a 17-year-old high school boy and a fatal shooting, the Supreme Court of New Jersey issued a ruling that lays the groundwork for discovery rules in these cases.
In N.H., the student was charged with several crimes, including unlawful possession of a firearm and homicide, and the state issued a juvenile waiver. When the waiver was issued, the State did not provide the defendant with some of the evidence involved, as they did not plan on using this evidence during the waiver hearing. However, the defendant filed a motion, seeking full discovery before the waiver hearing. Both the trial court and the appellate courts held that the juvenile defendant was entitled to the requested discovery.
Juvenile matters are tricky, especially when there’s a chance the case could go to criminal court. If your child has been charged with violating a criminal statute, and may have a juvenile waiver filed against him or her, contact Scott Gorman, a Morristown juvenile defense lawyer with The Gorman Law Firm, for a consultation today.
Published in Categories: Juvenile Defense