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Mercer County, Juvenile Crime

Mercer County Juvenile Crime Lawyer

The New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice adjudicates court cases for anyone under the age of 18 - the definition of a “juvenile.” Anyone under 18 accused of a crime is tried in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part - whose goal is to protect the underage accused, and protect the public. All juveniles in Family Court must be represented by an attorney - a public defender or a private attorney.

This is a complicated delta of options with a simple goal: protect and rehabilitate juveniles accused of crimes simple and complicated. The juvenile justice system has its own set of procedures, language and rules. If you are the guardian of a juvenile who is taken into custody for a crime, the first person you should talk to is Mercer County juvenile crime attorney Tara Breslow-Testa.

Born, bred and educated (Rutgers) in New Jersey, Ms. Breslow-Testa has experience on both sides of the bench and many years of experience defending young people accused of crimes in the juvenile court system of Mercer County.

For a free consultation, call Tara at (732) 784-2880

Mercer County = Third in State for Juvenile Crime

With a population of 370,000+ Mercer County includes Princeton and the state capital at Trenton. Mercer County ranks sixth in per capita income for all New Jersey counties but third - after Essex and Camden counties - for juvenile crime in the state of New Jersey.

According to July 2017 statistics from the Juvenile Justice Commission, for all of New Jersey, the majority of crimes were committed by African Americans (%72.44), then Hispanics (%19.44), then white (7.07%) then Asian (.38%). The prime age for juvenile crimes was 18 years old, and the majority of crimes were committed by males.

Looking at juvenile crimes by offense categories: “Persons” crimes - that is disorderly persons - accounted for 29.89%, followed by violation of probation (VOP - 20.67%), property (17.75%), public order (12.34%) weapons (11.53%) and drugs (7.07%).

As a juvenile crime attorney in Mercer County Tara Breslow-Testa has experience with a wide range of criminal defense - from shoplifting to drugs to assault.

Disorderly Persons

In New Jersey, a “crime” is a felony that is indictable, can involve a Grand Jury and involves a sentence of more than six months in jail. An “offense” is a disorderly person or petty disorderly person which means it is not indictable, there is no Grand Jury and the sentence can be no more than six months in jail.

While there are differences in sentencing guidelines for first to fourth degree crimes for juveniles and adults in New Jersey, the sentencing maximum is the same for juveniles and adults charged with disorderly persons.

A number of petty crimes fall under the heading of disorderly persons. The most common include (in alphabetical order): Bad checks, disorderly conduct, drug paraphernalia, harassment, lewdness, obstruction, possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana, resisting arrest, shoplifting.

The penalties for disorderly persons violations are the same for juveniles and adults: A maximum prison sentence of six months, a maximum fine of $1000 and mandatory assessment of Victims of Crime Compensation Board ($50), Save Neighborhood Services Fund ($75) and court costs of $33.

Violation of Probation

In New Jersey, courts can sentence a defendant to one to five years of probation, as an alternative to jail or fines. Depending on what charge a defendant was convicted of, probation can involve continuing to support his dependents and meet family responsibilities, find and continue in gainful employment, undergo available medical or psychiatric treatment and to enter and remain in a specified institution, when required for that purpose; pursue a prescribed secular course of study or vocational training; attend or reside in a facility established for the instruction, recreation or residence of persons on probation; refrain from frequenting unlawful or disreputable places or consorting with disreputable persons; not to possess any firearm or other dangerous weapon unless granted written permission; remain within the jurisdiction of the court and notify the court or the probation officer of any change in his address or his employment; report as directed to the court or the probation officer, to permit the officer to home visit , and to answer all reasonable inquiries by the probation officer; pay a fine; satisfy any other conditions reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the defendant and not unduly restrictive of his liberty or incompatible with his freedom of conscience; perform community service.

If a person on probation violates any of these terms set down by the judge, they are guilty of violation of probation (VOP). Judges don’t like citizens who violate probation. That probation was the court being kinder and gentler and keeping you out of jail. Defying probation means defying the court, and now the court has a number of options: Continue probation with new conditions, extend the length of probation, terminate the probation and resentence you for the original charges.

A stern judge will sentence a defendant to jail, despite the original plea bargain.

If you return to court to face a VOP charge, it is essential to have an experienced attorney by your side, to calm down angry judges, and hopefully get a third chance for good behavior out of the courts.

Tara Breslow-Testa is a juvenile crime attorney in Mercer County who understands the philosophy of New Jersey courts and she will be by your side as you face penalties for violation of probation.

Deferred Disposition, Drug Court and Pre-Trial Intervention

The New Jersey court recognizes that juveniles will be juveniles and the courts can be lenient with dealing with first-time offenders. With a good attorney by your side, drug crimes, property offenses and other offenses can be diverted to “deferred disposition,” drug court or pre trial intervention - programs set up to give defendants a chance to make good on their crimes, and also to keep the New Jersey courts from getting hopelessly backlogged with cases.

Deferred Disposition = First Offense, Second Chance

Juveniles are not arrested for committing crimes, rather they are “taken into custody.” If found guilty of an offense, juveniles are“adjudicated delinquent” rather than convicted.

A judge has the option to order a “deferred disposition” in juvenile cases - a second chance designed to let a juvenile make right on a crime, without going to court and facing the possibility of being “adjudicated delinquent” and paying fines, going to jail and having a criminal record.

If the juvenile complies with all the judge’s orders - which might include regular visits to a probation officer - then after a period of time that is usually one year, the charges are dropped and the whole matter stricken from the records.

Tara Breslow-Testa has clerked for judges, knows how judges think and knows how to negotiate for a deferred disposition - it often takes some convincing. Ms. Breslow-Testa is good at these negotiations, and comes through for her clients time and again.

If you are the guardian of a juvenile who has done something illegal and this is a first offense, contact Tara Breslow-Testa. You want her in your corner when squaring off with prosecutors and judges.

The Family Division of the Superior Court is a complicated labyrinth of options and diversions, which takes a skilled attorney to navigate. Mercer County juvenile crime lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa is that skilled navigator, and she can keep your son or daughter out of jail, and their records clean.

For a free consultation, call Tara at (732) 784-2880