Anyone charged with a criminal offense who is under 18 years of age is subject to the jurisdiction of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part commonly referred to as Juvenile Court. In the Juvenile Court, all proceedings are confidential and the courtroom is closed. A Family Part Judge hears all juvenile cases. There is no jury.
When a juvenile is charged with a criminal offense it means that a complaint for juvenile delinquency has been filed against the juvenile in the Juvenile Court. The County Prosecutor handles the prosecution against the juvenile. The possible punishments can range from an administrative dismissal which means that the juvenile has pled guilty and if they stay out of trouble for a year then the case is dismissed as if it never happened, probation, being sentenced to a juvenile corrections facility and in the most serious cases, the County Prosecutor can move to waive the juvenile to adult court where they face the same sentences as adults. If a case is waived to the adult court the confidentiality of Juvenile Court also disappears.
While juvenile adjudications of delinquency are confidential and the record is sealed, colleges and government agencies have the right to ask if an applicant has a juvenile record. This can be a basis for rejection both from a college or government job. It may also severely limit financial aid.
It is vitally important to protect either your future or that of a family member by hiring an experienced juvenile defense attorney. You will always get a better deal if you hire a private attorney. I have defended many juveniles charged with a broad range of crimes.
It is equally important that you hire an experienced defense attorney if you or a family member is charged with any motor vehicle violation. Conditional licenses for juveniles can be suspended for even minor motor vehicle offenses. In addition, any conviction will significantly increase the insurance premium on the auto policy covering the car the juvenile was driving and the other vehicles in the household.