Our Essex County Juvenile Attorney Understands Your Fears
Having a child or other young loved one charged with a juvenile offense can cause you tremendous anxiety. Though the law tries to protect children, in some instances, juvenile charges can result in serious consequences. Essex County juvenile attorney, Scott Gorman, understands what’s at stake and is here to give juveniles their best defense options.
Breaking Down Some of the Most Important Issues in Juvenile Arrests
Our Essex County Juvenile Attorney Explains a Teen’s Right to Remain Silent
By law, a parent does not have to be present for the police to interrogate or question a juvenile suspect. Any statements made by a juvenile during this unsupervised interrogation can be used later, which is something parents and their children might not be aware of at the time. Basically, any conversation between a minor who is suspected of criminal activity or involvement and an officer or court official can be considered part of that minor’s testimony and can be used in the ensuing investigation.
In a typical court case, an adult offender is advised of his or her right to retain a lawyer before an officer starts asking questions. As soon as the accused exercises that right and asks for a lawyer, the officer is required to stop asking questions until the attorney arrives. If the accused waives his or her right to counsel, he or she should fully understand that right and the decision to forfeit it.
For a juvenile case, full understanding is a little trickier. Depending on the age of the defendant and his or her familiarity with criminal law (which is likely very minimal), a full understanding of the Miranda rights, and what it means to waive those rights, is not always the case. However, as long as an investigation follows the laws fairly, a child defendant can waive the right to an attorney, or to have his or her parents present, and speak to law enforcement—even if the child doesn’t fully understand how that decision will impact the case.
It’s critical for your child’s case that you get an Essex County juvenile attorney involved as soon as charges are filed or your child is brought in for questioning in a criminal investigation if not sooner. Any statement that your child makes made can be used against him or her later on in court, and the process of fighting back against an incriminating confession or implication is not an easy one.
Underage Drinking Crimes
Just about everyone knows the legal drinking age in New Jersey is 21, and everyone under that age may be subject to fines, penalties or even jail time if they are caught drinking. However, it is fairly well-known that many young adults try alcohol for the first time as teenagers, in high school or in their freshman or sophomore years at college before they have turned 21. It’s difficult, but not impossible, for underage drinkers to get their hands on beer and liquor, and it often requires the help of someone who is of legal age.
An underage drinker who gets caught by police could be subject to many types of repercussions, most of which will have a lasting impact on his or her future. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15, underage possession of alcohol is a “disorderly persons” offense and a conviction can lead to a term of probation or sometimes jail. These charges pertain to anyone caught with alcohol under the age of 21, even if the person is not drunk or has not even had a drink. Simply being in possession of a bottle of beer can be enough to land a person in court.
According to the law, any person under 21 who consumes or purchases an alcoholic beverage will be fined at least $500. If a court finds that an underage person possessed alcohol while in any motor vehicle, the court must impose a six-month loss of driving privileges regardless of whether the person was not under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, if the offense is serious enough and the person is at a high level of intoxication when he or she is arrested, the court may order rehabilitation either in custody or as an alternative to time in a juvenile detention center. Our Essex County juvenile lawyer will evaluate the circumstances of your child’s arrest and will break down what to expect.
Essex County Juvenile Attorneys for Theft and Shoplifting Charges
Regardless of how old you are, if you have a lapse of judgment and steal something from a store or a neighbor’s car or home, you can face serious consequences under New Jersey law. Juvenile offenders charged with theft and shoplifting can face loss of their driving privileges, community service, probation and detention, and having a juvenile record could prevent you from getting into (or staying enrolled in) college. But, you have options available. If you have been charged with delinquency, criminal defense attorney our firm can help. Our Essex County juvenile lawyers represent clients in Criminal Courts and Family Courts throughout New Jersey, and he can help protect your future.
What Makes a Crime “Theft”?
With regard to personal property (things like jewelry, electronics, clothes and shoes), the crime of theft involves unlawfully taking or exercising control over someone else’s property with the purpose of depriving the rightful owner. In other words, theft is what most people think of as “stealing.”
What Constitutes Shoplifting in New Jersey?
Shoplifting involves stealing from a store. This can include attempting to leave the store without paying for an item or attempting to pay a lower price than the one for which the item is being sold. Examples of shoplifting include:
- Leaving a store with items hidden or stashed in your clothes or in a purse or backpack
- Leaving a store with items in a bag or shopping cart without paying
- Swapping tags with a less-expensive item in order to lower the price at checkout
- Hiding one item inside another, and then only paying for one of them
- Cutting the price tag off of an item and wearing it out of the store
The severity of a shoplifting offense is determined by the value of the goods stolen. The categories are:
- Less than $200 worth of stolen goods
- $200 to $499 worth of stolen goods
- $500 to $74,999 worth of stolen goods
- $75,000 or more worth of stolen goods
What are the Juvenile Penalties for Theft and Shoplifting in New Jersey?
Shoplifting offenses in New Jersey are divided into categories by value and the nature of the offense. Within each category, certain minimum sentencing guidelines are assigned. The following information explains each category.
- Disorderly persons offense – a shoplifting charge involving stolen goods valued under $200. This can be penalized by up to six months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Fourth-degree crime – shoplifting or theft involving goods valued between $200 and $500. If convicted of these crimes, a person could face a maximum of 18 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree crime – shoplifting merchandise valued at $500-$75,000. This crime can result in a sentence of 3-5 years in jail and/or fines of up to $15,000.
- Second-degree crime – This is considered a crime involving the shoplifting of goods valued at $75,000 or greater. A person who has been convicted of such a crime could be behind bars for 5-10 years, and may be forced to pay fines up to $150,000.
In addition to these penalties, some shoplifting charges carry community service requirements. Usually, first-time offenders are sentenced to 10 days of service, while second-time offenders will face 15 days, and third-time offenders can receive up to 25 days. Also, any third or subsequent shoplifting conviction will result in a mandatory period of imprisonment of at least 90 days.
In juvenile delinquency cases, the penalties are determined by a Family Court judge based upon what he or she determines to be in the “best interests” of the juvenile offender. This could mean one or more forms of punishment as discussed above, but it could also mean paying restitution, going to counseling and various other forms of sentencing as imposed in the judge’s discretion. With extensive experience representing minors in juvenile delinquency cases and as a former counselor at a home for at-risk youth, Mr. Gorman knows how to seek positive outcomes that allow his clients to move on with their lives.
Teen Assault Cases Should be Managed by an Essex County Juvenile Attorney
Navigating an aggravated assault case can be extremely complicated, especially when the perpetrator is a teenager. There are many factors that determine how serious an aggravated assault charge is and what the consequences may be. Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense, which is essentially a misdemeanor, but aggravated assault can be much more severe. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:121(b) of New Jersey’s criminal code, aggravated assault can be a second, third or fourth degree felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the attack.
Two main factors determine the degree of an assault charge. The first is the type of injury that was caused (or attempted), and the type of weapon that was used in the assault. Aggravated assaults can include any of the following:
• Threatening to strike or striking a person with a dangerous object or weapon
• Threatening to shoot or shooting a gun at someone
• Threatening to kill someone with a gun pointed at him or her
• Attack that results in serious physical injuries
• Attack against a member of a law enforcement officer, healthcare worker, or other protected field, or against a disabled person or older person
• Attack with a concealed identity
For an adult, any of these crimes can lead to serious convictions and lengthy periods of imprisonment. An aggravated assault committed by a teen carries the same weight because second-, third- and fourth-degree crimes may result in the minor perpetrator being charged as an adult. This is problematic for younger defendants because any incident of violence, even among friends or high school rivals, could lead to criminal charges.
No Early Release
Second-degree aggravated assault falls under the No Early Release Act which states that a defendant must serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence before the individual can be considered for parole. For a young teen charged with aggravated assault and facing ten years in prison, 85 percent of that sentence is an amount of time that could deeply impact the rest of his or her life. Essex County juvenile lawyer, Scott Gorman, represents teenagers who have been charged with serious crimes, whether they are prosecuted as adults or as juveniles.
What We Do for Your Child’s Juvenile Delinquency Case in New Jersey
1. Your Essex County Juvenile Attorney Will Identify All Available Defenses
In juvenile delinquency proceedings, minors can generally assert the same defenses that are available to adults in criminal court. These defenses include (but are not limited to):
- Lack of Evidence – In juvenile delinquency cases, the prosecution must prove the juvenile’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence does not prove that you (or your child) committed the alleged offense, then an adjudication of delinquency is inappropriate.
- Faulty Evidence – If prosecutors have evidence but that evidence is unreliable, then it should be kept out of your (or your child’s) juvenile case. Faulty DNA testing, unreliable breathalyzer devices, and various other issues can all provide grounds for arguing to exclude evidence from trial.
- Innocence – While it is not necessary to prove innocence, if you can do so, this can be the surest way to avoid an adjudication of delinquency.
- False Confession – In many cases, children who are taken into custody can be pressured into confessing to crimes that they did not commit.
- Racial, Ethnic or Age Profiling – Profiling continues to be a serious issue in New Jersey. Profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity or age is unlawful, and proving that you (or your child) has been profiled can provide a defense in court.
- Mistake – While ignorance of the law is usually not a viable defense, a mistake of fact (i.e. if you mistakenly believed you had someone’s consent to borrow their car) can provide a defense to juvenile culpability.
- Mistaken Identity (Alibi) – If the police identified you (or your child) when they should have identified someone else, establishing an alibi can be one way to avoid an adjudication of delinquency.
When you choose our law firm to represent you, our Essex County juvenile lawyers will work closely with you or your child to identify all defenses that are available. Armed with this information, we can then develop a comprehensive defense strategy focused on securing the best possible outcome in court.
2. Asserting Constitutional Protections
In addition to asserting the defenses listed above, asserting a violation of a juvenile’s constitutional rights can protect him or her against an adjudication of delinquency as well. This includes a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Scott is intimately familiar with the case law surrounding these constitutional protections and has used them to protect many of his clients.
3. Avoiding “Waiver” to Adult Criminal Court
In juvenile delinquency cases, one of the biggest risks is the risk of the case being transferred (or “waived”) to criminal court. While waiver is not a concern in all cases, if prosecutors are seeking to try you (or your child) as an adult, fighting waiver will be a critical early step toward avoiding life-changing consequences.
4. Fighting to Avoid an Adjudication of Delinquency
In juvenile cases, minors are not “convicted,” but rather “adjudicated delinquent.” Attorney Scott Gorman has extensive experience representing clients in juvenile delinquency proceedings, and he has helped juveniles avoid adjudications of delinquency in family courts throughout New Jersey. If your (or your child’s) case goes to trial, our Hackensack juvenile lawyers will rely on this experience to execute a defense strategy focused on avoiding an adjudication of delinquency.
5. Working to Structure an Appropriate Sentence
If it is not possible to avoid an adjudication of delinquency, then Scott will work with the judge to structure an appropriate sentence focused on rehabilitation. He will argue that detention would be unnecessary and counterproductive, and he will advocate for an alternative sentence that preserves your (or your child’s) freedom without limiting future education and career opportunities.
Contact an Essex County Juvenile Attorney at The Gorman Law Firm Today
At The Gorman Law Firm, our initial consultation is free. We want to provide juvenile with their best options, so we encourage you to contact our office right away. The sooner we understand the case, the sooner we can help protect your child’s future.