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He/She is a Good Kid, But…

Handcuffed

How many times have you heard this when a teenager does “something stupid” and gets caught?  How can you keep “something stupid” from ruining the future of a good kid?

The Juvenile Code in New Jersey recognizes that that adolescence is a time of learning and growing and that many of us learn best from our mistakes. With this in mind, the focus in juvenile court is not punishment, but rehabilitation. In fact, juveniles are never convicted of a crime; rather they are “adjudicated delinquent.”

This seemingly small but substantively significant difference addresses the illegal act rather than the individual. Once an individual has admitted to being or has been found to be “delinquent,” the next step is not sentencing, but rather a “disposition”; and the primary factor considered by the court is whether the Juvenile can be “rehabilitated” by their 18th birthday.

Although the crafters of the code of juvenile justice used language which separates delinquents from criminals, the unfortunate truth is that there are many circumstances where a juvenile’s record can be discovered long after the event in question, and future discovery by way of a background check can interfere with the juvenile’s future success.

Because of this reality, the law provides another opportunity to assist juveniles in getting their life on track. It is commonly referred to as “the one year rule.”

The “one year rule” delays any hearing on the charges for one year and requires that the juvenile admit that they did break the law. They are placed on probation for one year without adjudication. If the juvenile completes probation successfully, the charges are dismissed. This protects the Juvenile from ever being adjudicated delinquent.

This provision is set forth in NJSA 2A:4A-43 as follows:

2A:4A-43 Disposition of delinquency cases.

“….(1)Adjourn formal entry of disposition of the case for a period not to exceed 12 months for the purpose of determining whether the juvenile makes a satisfactory adjustment, and if during the period of continuance the juvenile makes such an adjustment, dismiss the complaint; provided that if the court adjourns formal entry of disposition of delinquency for a violation of an offense defined in chapter 35 or 36 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes the court shall assess the mandatory penalty set forth in N.J.S.2C:35-15 but may waive imposition of the penalty set forth in N.J.S.2C:35-16 for juveniles adjudicated delinquent;…”

In New Jersey, thanks to the “one year rule,” there is no reason that one transgression by a “good kid” must automatically turn into a life-long hindrance to academic and career success.

At DeMichele & DeMichele, we have the expertise to ensure that an adolescent in trouble is given every opportunity to rehabilitate, as the law intends.

If you or a loved one is struggling to deal with juvenile charges, then please contact the family law lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. We can help you navigate the process, explain your rights and work towards the best result for your children. Contact us now for your confidential initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350

Post Author: Chris Leone-Zwillinger