The term "delinquency" is used when someone under 18 breaks the law. Juvenile
delinquency cases are often heard in family court. Sometimes, they are heard in
The court has three goals in delinquency cases. The court wants the juvenile to take
responsibility for their actions. Also, the court wants to help the juvenile
learn how to avoid getting into trouble again. In addition, the court must be
concerned with public safety.
Does my child need a lawyer?
If the case is being heard before a judge, your child must have an attorney.
If you cannot afford an attorney for your child, you might qualify for a public
defender. Contact your local family court to ask for an
“application for assignment of counsel” and instructions on how to submit the
Call your local court ombudsman
if you have questions about this form or about your juvenile case.
The NJ State Bar Association also maintains a list of county referral services that might be helpful.
The First Juvenile Delinquency Hearing
If your child is not detained, you will be given a court date when you and your
child must appear in court.
If your child is held in detention, a hearing will take place by the end of the
next day. A parent or guardian must be present at all hearings.
You will find out three things:
will get a copy of the complaint, which lists the charges.
will be told whether your child needs a lawyer. This will depend on whether the
case will be held by a judge or is sent to a committee or court staff to
court will decide whether your child will be released or will stay in detention
until the case is decided.
Learn more about juvenile delinquency cases.
If Your Child Is Held in a Juvenile Facility
The court could decide to hold your child in a juvenile facility if the child:
- are accused of a serious offense;
- a risk to public safety;
- have a record of juvenile delinquency;
- failed to come to a recent court hearing; OR
- failed to stay in a court placement.
Bail is not available for juveniles.
your child is detained, another court hearing will be held within 48 hours. The
child must have an attorney. At this hearing, the judge could decide that the
prosecutor has not presented enough evidence to make the judge think that the
child could have broken a law. The judge might dismiss the case.
the judge believes that the juvenile likely broke the law, the case will be
scheduled for a hearing. The child could be released or detained at this point.
If the child is detained, a detention review hearing will be held within 14
days. After that, a detention hearing must be held every month until the case
Three Ways Juvenile Cases Are Resolved
1) Juvenile conference committee (JCC) or intake services conference (ISC).
An informal discussion
is held with you, your child, and the person who filed the complaint. If all
parties agree, your child might have to follow certain conditions. These could
include curfews, counseling, community service, paying for items that were
broken or taken, or other things that would aid in their rehabilitation. If the
conditions are met, the case could be dismissed. The judge must approve any
2) Juveniles referees. Trained court
staff are hearing officers who conduct juvenile hearings and make recommendations to the judge about
whether your child is delinquent. They might also recommend things like
curfews, counseling, or community service. They cannot recommend detention. The
judge will review the case and decide whether to approve their recommendation. You
must tell the referee right away if you disagree with the recommendation they plan
to send to the judge.
3) Hearing before a judge.
An "informal" hearing before a judge does not require a lawyer to be present. This
is called “counsel non-mandatory.” A formal hearing is “counsel mandatory.” See
the instructions above for how to get a lawyer in counsel mandatory hearings. In either type of case, the
judge will decide whether your child is delinquent. If so, the judge can set
conditions to aid in rehabilitation. Those could include
Forms and Brochures
Is Your Family in Crisis?
Sometimes families need extra support when juveniles
have problems beyond what they can handle. Families in crisis can call their
local juvenile family crisis intervention unit (FCIU). FCIU is a 24-hour
on-call service that responds to, de-escalates, and stabilizes juvenile family
crises. The FCIU will become involved when there is a serious threat to the
well-being and physical safety of a juvenile, a serious conflict between a
parent/guardian and a juvenile, and situations involving runaways, human
trafficking or other concerns.