Generally, criminal suspects that are juveniles are treated differently than adult offenders by the criminal justice system and are afforded greater rights. In some instances in which a crime allegedly committed by a minor is egregious, however, the State may move for a waiver that would allow the minor to be prosecuted as an adult. In a recent case, a New Jersey appellate court discussed the appropriate procedures for determining whether a juvenile that is charged with a grave crime should be waived to the Criminal Part and tried as an adult. If you or your child are accused of committing a crime, it is critical to understand your rights, and you should speak with a trusted New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was accused of sexually assaulting a five-year-old boy. The defendant, who was seventeen at the time the offense was reportedly committed, suffered from intellectual disabilities, which an expert psychiatrist stated resulted in the defendant’s intellectual age being the same as that of a thirteen-year-old child. The State requested that the defendant be waived to the Criminal Part due to the serious nature of his offenses. The trial court granted the waiver, and the defendant appealed. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling.

Evaluating Whether a Juvenile Defendant Should be Waived to the Criminal Part

Under New Jersey’s revised waiver statute, the minimum age for an offender to be eligible for waiver is fifteen. Additionally, a waiver motion must be accompanied by a written statement of reasons that explicitly explains the facts used to assess the waiver factors enumerated under the statute, along with an explanation of how the evaluation of those facts supports a waiver for the juvenile in question.

The enumerated factors include the nature of the crime, the age and maturity of the defendant, whether the defendant is eligible for special education, the degree of sophistication involved in the crime, and evidence of mental health concerns. Additionally, the prosecution must weigh whether the defendant has been involved with child welfare agencies, the victim’s input, and whether the defendant has previously been adjudicated delinquent.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the State’s written statement of reasons in support of the waiver did not address the factors enumerated under the current waiver statute. Rather, it relied upon categories included in prior versions of the law. As such, the appellate court found it to be uninformative and inadequate and ruled that the trial court erred in granting the waiver. Thus, the appellate court vacated the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey

Juvenile defendants are generally treated more favorably than adult defendants in the criminal justice system, but in some cases, the State may attempt to try a juvenile as an adult, impinging on his or her rights. If your child was charged with a sex crime or other offense, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney to assess your options. The seasoned New Jersey criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are skilled at helping people accused of crimes seek just results, and if you hire us, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or at 877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.