When your child is arrested in NJ, it can be a frightening time.
From working with countless parents, I know how unsettling it is to receive a phone call informing you that your child has been arrested or the police are asking for them to be questioned regarding a criminal charge. A tornado of thoughts and concerns are sure to grip the parent as well as the child.
Juveniles can be charged with the same statutory offenses as adults and the seriousness of the offense dictates where the matter is heard. Often times an experienced criminal lawyer can avoid the matter being presented to a judge in a formal proceeding and instead have a referee or the Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC) hear the matter. If your son or daughter is charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4), it may be possible to avoid a record and enter into a deferred disposition. If your child has been charged with shoplifting there are ways an experienced criminal lawyer can avoid serious consequences. It is not uncommon for good kids to get into a fight and be charged with simple or aggravated assault. In these and other matters, a deferred disposition is oftentimes a good way for a child to be given a second chance.
Most importantly, it is imperative to keep in mind that this is a serious crime that requires your immediate attention. Your child will benefit from getting an experienced criminal lawyer who will start working right away to obtain a favorable resolution. Together we can plan to get your child the help he/she needs, walk through the legal system, and prepare for the hearing.
Consider a few of these points if this is something that you run into during your parenting tenure:
- To start, remain calm. Understand that your child is not perfect and they are likely to make mistakes in their adolescence. While this is certainly not the end of the world it is critical to address it. In their youth, children are liable to make poor decisions, and it is at this time where a poor life choice can yield a great deal of wisdom. Be sure that you take advantage of this teachable moment as such moments are fleeting. A calm, cool, collected mind is paramount.
- Get a lawyer on your side immediately. Do not allow your child to incriminate themselves by acting in the place of a lawyer. Remain calm and be sure to get a reputable person on your side and do so as soon as you can. We can discuss the best court preparations, treatment options, and many other details including how to best present a very comprehensive case to the judge.
- Understand that, in this situation, the police are not on your side. Their responsibility is to open, investigate, and close the case. As part of their investigation they will want to question your child. Your child has the right to remain silent as well as the right to an attorney. Instruct your child not to answer any questions posed by the police until his or her lawyer is present. Make sure you do not leave the fate of your child solely in the hands of the police and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Ms. Breslow is a member of the Juvenile Committee in the Monmouth County Bar and has trained other lawyers at the New Jersey State Bar Association on how to handle juvenile matters. She has extensive experience in the juvenile justice system in Monmouth, Middlesex, Ocean and Mercer Counties.