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When can a teenager be tried as an adult?

As a parent, the thought of your child entering the criminal justice system accused of a crime is terrifying. For many parents of young people struggling to stay on the right path, it is a reality.

According to the New Jersey Supreme Court, prosecutors can charge juveniles as young as 15 as adults. If convicted, minors can even face mandatory minimum prison sentences.

For which crimes can the state charge juveniles as adults?

In the U.S., an 18-year-old is a legal adult and subject to harsh consequences upon conviction. In New Jersey, younger teens can face adult charges for significant offenses such as:

  • Repeated crimes and failed attempts at rehabilitation through treatment or juvenile detention
  • Felony or misdemeanor larceny and theft
  • Serious or violent offenses including first-degree murder, armed robbery, rape and drug trafficking

How does adult court differ from juvenile court?

Judges understand that the teen years are a time to make mistakes and learn valuable lessons. Therefore, juvenile offenders often receive lenient punishments in hopes that they never re-offend. However, when teens face adult charges, they establish a permanent criminal record which can affect future educational and employment opportunities. They may have to forfeit their rights to vote, own firearms or apply for loans. Additionally, courts can impose life-altering sentences such as life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If you get a phone call from your teen who is in custody, you may not know how to react. Understanding the New Jersey criminal court process will help you protect your family’s legal rights.

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