Defending Your Child’s Future When The Stakes Are High
The juvenile justice system emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment and provides many more sentencing options than are available for adult defendants. Sentencing in juvenile court is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the minor’s circumstances and the nature of the offense, as well as other aggravating and mitigating factors. This flexible approach gives judges broad discretion to impose dispositions that balance the need to protect the community against the juvenile’s interests in rehabilitation.
If your child is facing sentencing for a juvenile offense, having a New Jersey criminal defense attorney who is familiar with juvenile court procedures is extremely valuable. I am Anthony N. Palumbo, a partner at The Law Offices of Anthony N. Palumbo and a juvenile attorney with more than 35 years of legal experience. I understand the unique procedures used in New Jersey’s juvenile court system and the best strategies to keep a young person’s life on track. Contact me today by calling 908-643-6801 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Dispositional Hearing And Pre-Disposition Report
When a juvenile offender pleads guilty or is adjudicated delinquent at trial, a dispositional hearing is scheduled for the judge to review appropriate penalties and punishments.
Prior to the dispositional hearing, the judge may refer the juvenile for appropriate examinations and evaluations. The judge may also consult with the prosecutor, the county probation division, the Department of Children and Families, the county youth services commission, school personnel, clergy, law enforcement authorities, family members and other interested parties.
In some cases, usually those where juveniles face a sentence of incarceration, a pre-disposition report may be prepared to provide the judge with additional information relevant to the disposition. Pre-disposition reports must include an analysis of the circumstances attending the commission of the offense, the impact of the offense on the community, the juvenile’s history of delinquency, the juvenile’s family situation and financial resources, and information concerning the parent or guardian’s exercise of supervision and control relevant to commission of the offense. A pre-disposition report may also include a statement by the victim (or the nearest relative of a homicide victim) regarding the nature and extent of any physical, psychological or emotional harm caused by the offense, the extent of any financial loss, and the effect of the crime on the victim’s family.
Factors Affecting Disposition
When making a juvenile disposition, judges must determine the most appropriate course of action to accomplish rehabilitation goals and at the same time protect society. To ensure that all the competing interests are considered, the Juvenile Justice Code requires judges to weigh a number of factors and circumstances, including:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense
- The degree of injury or damage caused by the offense
- The juvenile’s age, previous record and prior social services received
- Whether the disposition supports family strength, responsibility, unity, and the well-being and physical safety of the juvenile
- Whether the disposition provides for reasonable participation by the child’s parents or guardians
- Whether the disposition recognizes and treats the unique physical, psychological and social characteristics and needs of the child
- Whether the disposition contributes to the child’s developmental needs
- Any other circumstances related to the offense and the juvenile’s social history as deemed appropriate by the court
- The impact of the offense on the victim
- The impact of the offense on the community
- The threat to the public or any individual posed by the child
In cases involving serious offenses, juveniles may be sentenced to a term of incarceration at a juvenile detention center. Certain aggravating factors weigh in favor of incarcerating a juvenile defendant, including, among other things, the fact that the crime was especially heinous or cruel, the character and attitude of the juvenile indicating that he or she is likely to re-offend, and the juvenile’s prior criminal record. On the other hand, mitigating factors must also be considered, as where the child is under the age of 14, the juvenile’s conduct neither caused nor threatened serious harm, there were substantial grounds tending to excuse or justify the juvenile’s conduct, or the juvenile’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur.
Judges have broad discretion in determining the most appropriate dispositions for juvenile offenders, and a variety of sentencing options may be deemed preferable to incarceration, including deferred disposition, probation, community service, fines or restitution, house arrest, sentencing to counseling or education programs, psychiatric commitment, and placement in alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs. Additionally, the judge may order a driver’s license suspension or postponement for up to two years if the juvenile used a motor vehicle in the course of committing the offense.
Disposition orders may also transfer custody over the juvenile to another family member or to the state Department of Children and Families, and if the judge finds that the juvenile’s parents or guardians were a significant contributing factor to the offense, they may be ordered to pay restitution or participate in counseling programs.
Having A Juvenile Defense Lawyer By Your Side
Getting in trouble as a juvenile is a scary ordeal, and if the charge isn’t handled properly, it can leave a harrowing mark on a young person’s future. If your child has been adjudicated delinquent, the most important thing you can do is to consult with an experienced lawyer for juveniles. Your attorney will be able to secure a more lenient sentence by emphasizing mitigating factors in your child’s case while contesting negative details raised by the prosecution. Your attorney may also be able to suggest sentencing alternatives such as community service or house arrest.
If you need a Union County juvenile lawyer, a Middlesex County juvenile attorney or a Monmouth County juvenile lawyer, contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, through the email form on my website or at 908-643-6801 for a free and confidential consultation. As a partner at The Law Offices of Anthony N. Palumbo, I’ve been representing juvenile defendants for almost four decades, and as a longstanding member of the legal community, a former prosecutor and a current criminal defense attorney, I can help get the best results possible in your case.