Stationhouse Adjustments in NJ Juvenile Cases

Morristown Juvenile Case AttorneyJuveniles are treated differently in the criminal justice system in New Jersey, and rightfully so. Children generally do not need the harsh treatment that adults receive through the criminal justice system. Instead, taking steps to focus on rehabilitation is much more critical for minors suspected of committing criminal offenses.

When a juvenile is taken into custody for doing something that would otherwise be a crime if an adult was engaging in the act, then law enforcement often has the option to decline to file a formal criminal complaint. Instead, they can conduct what is known as a “stationhouse adjustment.”

What is a Stationhouse Adjustment?

Police will sometimes decide to make a stationhouse adjustment instead of filing a formal criminal complaint against a juvenile in New Jersey. This process usually involves having a meeting with the minor, along with his or her parents (or guardian), and, in some cases, the victim of the alleged crime. This group of people will sit down and discuss the offense. The juvenile will also have to go through some kind of punishment for his or her behavior, such as doing community service, paying restitution, or writing an essay.

The idea behind a stationhouse adjustment is to teach the juvenile a lesson without forcing them to go through the criminal justice process, including the formal court appearance. It allows them to avoid having something on their criminal record as well. It is faster, easier, and includes immediate consequences for a juvenile’s actions. It may also service the victims of a particular types of offenses, such as those whose property was vandalized.

When Is a Stationhouse Adjustment an Option?

Stationhouse adjustments can only be used for certain types of offenses. These include things like petty disorderly persons offenses, disorderly person offenses, fourth-degree offenses if the juvenile has no prior record, and municipal ordinance violations. Officers will generally use stationhouse adjustments for minor crimes committed by first-time offenders. Some of the most common offenses include things like trespassing, shoplifting (petty theft), and disorderly conduct. Charges related to controlled substances, sex crimes, third-degree offenses, and violations of parole are not offenses where a stationhouse adjustment is appropriate or permitted.

When determining whether to use a stationhouse adjustment or file a formal criminal complaint, the officer involved will consider factors like the nature and seriousness of the offense, the age of the juvenile involved, and the cooperation of all of the parties involved. For example, if a victim was seriously harmed by the juvenile’s actions, then the officer may be less likely to use a stationhouse adjustment.

Officers can also use stationhouse adjustments when a juvenile is engaging in an activity that is not necessarily illegal, but it is dangerous to themselves or others or disruptive. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General has encouraged officers to use the stationhouse adjustment process as the first alternative to taking a juvenile into custody and making a formal charge. Police are permitted to use curbside warnings as a substitute as well.

How Does a Stationhouse Adjustment Work?

A juvenile officer will generally conduct the stationhouse adjustment. However, if one is not available, then the arresting officer or the detective can consult with the juvenile officer to sign off on the stationhouse adjustment as well. The officer will ask the juvenile, parent or guardian, and the victim to the police station to discuss the issue. If a victim does not agree to address the problem, then a stationhouse adjustment may not be possible.

Our team can work with you and your child to encourage that an officer use a stationhouse adjustment in certain circumstances. Contact The Tormey Law Firm for more information about how we can help you and your child if you are trying to maneuver through the juvenile justice system in New Jersey. Having an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney can be a helpful asset under these circumstances. Call (908) 336-5008 or send us an email for more information.