Understanding New Jersey Juvenile Prosecution – Juvenile Criminal Law in the County Courts

There are a number of differences between juveniles and adults when it comes to the court process. In New Jersey the County has jurisdiction 13over all juveniles within that county. Therefore, all criminal juvenile delinquent cases are heard at the Superior Court level in the County Court. In juvenile court what is typically called a “trial” is known as an adjudicatory hearing. The adjudicatory hearing must be held within 30 days of the initial detainment of the juvenile if the juvenile remains detained. If the hearing is not held the court must set a date certain for the hearing within 72 hours of the juvenile’s motion requesting the hearing. If the juvenile becomes convicted he is an “adjudicated delinquent” rather than convicted.


The juvenile prosecution process moves faster than for adults. After arrest and if the child is held the juvenile is brought in front of a Family Court Judge within 24 hours for a first detention hearing. To decide whether to hold a child or release him to the parents the best interest of the child need to be balanced with the danger of the child to the community. The assumption is that the best interest of the child is staying in a loving home.


If the juvenile is 14 years or older he can be released on her on recognizance even if there is no parent or guardian, if the following conditions are met:


  • If she does not present a danger to the community
  • Has an identifiable identity and address
  • Reasonable certainty exists that the juvenile will return home or to school safely


If the juvenile is younger than 14 years old he may be released to a responsible parent or guardian from the police station. For the most party the child is turned over to parental custody, NJ law holds that a child can be detained only if he is a danger to the community or believed to be a risk not to appear in court. N.J.S. §2A:4A-34.


There are also different methods for sentencing Juveniles including a “period of adjustment” and other probationary means.


 This is just a brief introduction to the juvenile prosecution process. If you believe that you have a juvenile prosecution issue or a Juvenile criminal matter contact The Morano Law Firm at 201-598-5019 or email us at newjerseylawyernow@gmail.com