The meanings of words can change over time. When the term terroristic threat initially came into use in the legal system in New Jersey, it was generally associated with allegations of domestic violence. That’s changed in the past 15 years, though. Now, charges of making terroristic threats can stem from many different actions and you don’t necessarily have to be an adult to be accused.

That much is clear after the news late last month out of Paterson. We suspect many readers know about the investigation into alleged terroristic threats purportedly made by a 14-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy. The specific charges they face include the threats charge and counts of conspiracy.

At this point, there is no information regarding whether these young people face prosecution as juveniles or whether officials might seek to try them as adults. The fact that the investigation to date has not turned up any weapons might help to keep the matter at the juvenile court level. Regardless, if the case does go forward, the consequences could be serious for the defendants, and perhaps for their parents.

Ways a juvenile could be tried as an adult

Under legal processes in many states, a juvenile case could wind up in adult court in any number of ways.

  • Judicial Waiver
  • Concurrent Jurisdiction
  • Statutory Exclusion

Statutory exclusion is a form of mandatory determination. A state’s law may declare that a juvenile will be tried as an adult for a serious crime, such as murder. Concurrent jurisdiction might occur in states where prosecutors are allowed to file charges in both adult and juvenile court at the same time. In New Jersey, the norm is judicial waiver, which tends to mean that most juvenile courts handle most cases.

That should bode well for most juveniles accused of a crime, though it doesn’t mean any charge should be taken lightly.