Not every juvenile case in New Jersey will go to a formal hearing before a Juvenile Judge. Some cases will be referred to “Juvenile Referees.” These individuals act as a go-between for the minor facing the charges and the judge. Juvenile referees hold hearings, but the proceedings are much less formal. The juvenile referee is trained and certified to fulfill their role. They will often decide cases using much less stringent evidence requirements. They may also make more creative recommendations regarding how a juvenile should be treated if the child is found to be “delinquent.” Here are the basics of what you need to know about Juvenile Referees if your son or daughter needs to appear for a juvenile case in New Jersey.
What is a Juvenile Referee in New Jersey?
A Juvenile Referee is appointed by the Family Court Judge. He or she is also approved by the Chief Justice. The State of New Jersey also has specific requirements that this person must meet to serve in this role, including undergoing training and education. Generally, the Juvenile Referee will hear pleas from juveniles and conduct hearings if the juvenile pleads “not guilty.” As a rule, more serious offenses (those that are considered at least third degree crimes) will not be heard by a Juvenile Referee. Sometimes, turning to a Referee is a logical next step if you have had an unsuccessful Juvenile Conference Committee meeting or if the case involves a repeat offender or violation of probation.
Hearing Before a Juvenile Referee in NJ
Trials that involve Juvenile Referees are far more informal than traditional juvenile hearings. Nonetheless, like a conventional hearing, both the state and the juvenile can call witnesses and submit evidence. The minor can testify on his or her own behalf if they wish as well. Once all of the evidence is presented, the Juvenile Referee will determine whether the juvenile is “delinquent” or “not delinquent,” just as they would do in an adult hearing that involves a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict from a jury. However, there are no juries used in these types of hearings.
The Juvenile Referee will take recommendations from the law enforcement officer and the victim as to how the case should be decided. Nonetheless, the Referee has the ultimate decision-making power. He or she will then make a recommendation as to how the case should be resolved. That recommendation is then passed along to the Juvenile Judge for a final decision. Many times, the Juvenile Judge will use the advice of the Referee and defer to his or her judgment regarding any factual disputes, but not always.
Need a Lawyer for Morristown Juvenile Referee Hearing
The Juvenile Referee will ultimately recommend how the juvenile’s case should be handled. There are a wide variety of potential options that the Referee can suggest to the judge. For example, he or she may recommend dismissal, community service, fines, mental health evaluations, supervised probation, suspension of a driver’s license, and other more creative options.
Although a Juvenile Referee hearing is informal, it is still highly advisable to have an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you and your child obtain the best outcome. Presenting evidence and arguments in your son or daughter’s defense is a vital part of the process. The recommendations that the Referee makes are often used by the Juvenile Court, so getting it right the first time is very important. You certainly have a right to a lawyer in these proceedings and making that decision early in the process can help you be best prepared for what happens next. Call our Morris County Juvenile Defense Attorneys at (908) 336-5008 for more information on this unique juvenile process and find out how we can help you.