Juvenile Crimes: NJ Supreme Court makes trying juveniles as adults harder

By Maynard & Sumner, LLC of Maynard & Sumner, LLC posted in Juvenile Crimes on Friday, September 21, 2012.

For many years, juvenile justice advocates have been fighting to increase the standards used to waive juveniles to the adult criminal courts. On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, ruled that prosecutors must make a greater showing in order to try juveniles as adults. The decision arose from the appeal of four young men who were charged initially with juvenile crimes; aggravated assault, robbery and conspiracy when they were 16 or 17 years of age respectively. The young men appealed the waiver to be tried in the adult courts. Each of their cases has been remanded to the Superior Court, allowing the prosecutors to comply with the Supreme Court’s directives before reapplying for a waiver.

The controversy surrounding juveniles being tried as adults results from the potential exposure to adult-level penalties. The Statehouse Bureau, reporting on the decision, stated:

[Juvenile justice advocates] said imprisoning young people as adults creates a permanent criminal record, which makes it difficult for offenders to get a job or take out a loan. The advocates also said juveniles I adult facilities are more likely to commit suicide or be physically and sexually abused.

Prosecutors argue that the threat of trying juveniles as adults is a better deterrent for young people from committing future crimes.

The New Jersey Supreme Court sided with the advocates. In the future, juveniles need only prove that prosecutors abused their discretion when they waived a juvenile case to the adult criminal court. In prior case law, the juvenile needs to prove “patent and gross” abuse of discretion.

When prosecutors ask to send juvenile case to the adult court for juveniles age 16 and up, the must now address the nature of the offenses, how the move would help deter future offenses, and the maximum possible adult sentence.

If your child has been charged with a serious offense, consult an experienced juvenile crimes lawyer who will fight for what is in the best interest for your child.

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