When Juveniles Are Tried as Adults in New Jersey
The New Jersey Supreme Court is hearing arguments on a technical issue involving juveniles who are tried as adults. That issue is: If the prosecutor’s office is prosecuting a juvenile case, should it also be the office to determine whether that juvenile’s case should be tried in adult court?
This issue may seem small, but it is important. The New Jersey juvenile court system and adult court system are very different, and whether a juvenile is tried in adult court could mean the difference between obtaining a future job and being turned down due to an adult criminal record.
Differences Between Juvenile and Adult Court
There are substantial differences between the adult court and juvenile court systems. They include:
- Juvenile proceedings are held in the court’s family division.
- Juvenile court is closed to the public and any records from the proceedings are sealed. In adult court, hearings are open to the public and records are available for inspection.
- Juvenile sentences are much shorter. For example, facing armed robbery as a juvenile could land someone in court for four years while an adult sentence can be up to 20 years.
- The juvenile system focuses much more on rehabilitation than the adult system.
Currently, prosecutors are the ones to decide whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult. While judges are able to overturn prosecutors’ decisions, they may only do so in limited circumstances – circumstances where there has been a “patent abuse of discretion.” If the Supreme Court reviews the case, it may decide to take some of that discretion away from prosecutors and put it into the hands of judges.
Source: North Jersey.com, “The Record: Juvenile Justice,” Apr. 29, 2012.