What Is The Juvenile Justice System?
Over the past decade, the Juvenile Justice System has come to the forefront of the Criminal Justice System. Juvenile offenses have increased at a rapid pace and the prosecution of juvenile offenders has followed suit.
In 2001, Hudson County had 4,085 juvenile delinquency complaints filed. The offenses range from homicide to simple disorderly offenses.
There are various dispositions for juvenile offenders. When the offense is not of a serious nature, the resolution will be handled by the Court and various Court recommended agencies and offices.
The Prosecutor's Office will become involved
when there are serious charges and/or the juvenile becomes re-involved. In
these cases, there are formal Court proceedings that resemble adult criminal
In a formal proceeding, the juvenile can either plead guilty or request a trial. The vast majority of cases are resolved by guilty pleas. If a trial is required, it will be a trial before the juvenile judge alone without a jury. A major difference between the juvenile and adult systems is that the prosecutor does not make binding sentencing recommendations as part of a plea bargain. The judge has total discretion regarding the sentence imposed. The least punitive is a deferred adjudication where the juvenile can "earn" the dismissal of his/her charge by fulfilling certain conditions such as restitution, community service, counseling or school attendance for a specified period. Probation is another potential disposition wherein the juvenile must report periodically to a probation officer and fulfill certain special conditions. Residential placements are another possibility. Here, the juvenile is taken away from home and placed in a residential facility designed to focus on specific problems such as drug or alcohol abuse.
The judge may also impose a term of incarceration as the disposition. Incarceration is often imposed for juveniles who have a substantial amount of prior adjudications or for certain enumerated offenses such as theft of a vehicle.
The juvenile justice system is more lenient
and informal than many people realize. The basic philosophy of the juvenile
justice system is rehabilitation of the juvenile, not punishment. However,
the State does have the option of transferring juveniles over the age of 14
to adult court for prosecution as an adult, usually for the more serious offenses.
Overall, Hudson County is committed to the appropriate disposition of all
Any questions regarding the Juvenile Justice System may be directed to the Juvenile Team Leader, Assistant Prosecutor David Sharpe, at the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office (201) 795-6541.