Juvenile Drug Possession
New Brunswick Juvenile Drug Charges Lawyer Defending Clients in Middlesex County, New Jersey
Teens and minors caught with drugs or accused of drug-related offenses in New Jersey are subject to criminal proceedings in Juvenile Court, as opposed to adult criminal court. While juveniles have more legal options than adults when it comes to resolving a drug case, your child or loved one is still facing punishment if adjudicated delinquent for a drug offense. Whether you or your son or daughter was taken into custody on drug charges in Edison, New Brunswick, Woodbridge, Piscataway, Metuchen, South Brunswick, or Old Bridge, contact our office for sound legal advice now. Juveniles are entitled to representation in Middlesex County Family Court and best served by experienced New Jersey juvenile defense lawyers. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to explain the charges to you, review the evidence, and minimize the severity of the punishment. Call our local office in Edison at (732) 659-9600 to discuss your juvenile charges free of charge. Our team is here to provide you with a free consultation.
Can children be taken into custody by police for drugs in NJ?
Any child under the age of 18 whom the police have probable cause to believe committed a drug offense or other delinquent act may be taken into custody, taken to the police station, and processed. Processing generally occurs at the police station in the town in which the arrest has taken place. Once at the police station, the officer is required to notify the parents or legal guardians that their child is in custody. In many circumstances, the child is released to the guardian’s custody and told when to return to court. In fact, most children are released to their parents without a court appearance after being processed by police. If your child is held, a detention hearing will occur within 24 hours in front of a Judge within the County Superior Court, Family Division. The child’s parents or legal guardians will be required to appear with the child and the judge decides whether he or she should be released to your custody or held in the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Facility or shelter.
Prior to the next court hearing, you should retain an attorney. Our attorneys notify the court that we are representing you. We will gather the discovery from the prosecutor and take care of all of the details for you prior to your next court appearance.
Where do we attend court in a Middlesex County juvenile matter and what is the process?
Any drug case involving a juvenile (under 18) will be heard in the Superior Court, Family Division in the county in which the child resides or is determined to live. Prior to coming to court, the police have the option of making a station house adjustment, referring for intake, or filing a juvenile family crises petition. However, once scheduled for court, you will be required to appear in front of the Family Court Judge with your child.
Once in juvenile court, juveniles, just as adults, are presumed innocent until proven guilty. As such, they are entitled to have a trial and cannot be forced to plead guilty. The difference with adult cases is that the determination of guilt is made by the jury, while in juvenile court, this decision is made by the Family Court Judge. Additionally, unlike adult cases, the goal of the juvenile court is rehabilitation. In adult cases, the court is less interested in rehabilitation and the consequences can be purely punitive. In juvenile court, the judge tries to assist the child in achieving goals consistent with social norms and prevent the child from becoming an adult offender.
With that goal in mind, our attorneys guide you in the right direction, thereby making it easier for the court to withhold a jail sentence. Drug cases often allow for a variety of outcomes and we hope to capitalize on the rehabilitation component by pointing out the positive things that your child has achieved, and what they are willing to do to get back on track.
What type of drug cases are heard in Middlesex County Juvenile Court?
No one, juvenile nor adult, is allowed to possess drugs that are listed on the New Jersey Schedules of controlled dangerous substances. The law does not make an exception because the accused is a teen, child, or young adult. Anyone under the age of 18 who possesses drugs, possesses drugs with the intent to distribute, or distributes a controlled dangerous substance, will be charged with an offense. The degree of the offense depends upon the type of drug possessed, as well as the amount possessed, and the intent to use, distribute, or dispense the substance. This remains true no matter whether you are an adult or a minor in New Jersey. Juvenile law allows for the prosecution of a juvenile for any offense that would be classified as a crime or disorderly persons offense if charged as an adult.
What we refer to as indictable crimes (felonies) are categorized as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree. If the offense is not a felony, it will be listed as a disorderly persons offense (dp) or petty disorderly persons offense. The following is a list of drugs charges frequently filed against juveniles and adjudicated in juvenile court:
- Possessing less than 50 grams of marijuana, disorderly persons offense
- Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana, fourth degree crime
- Heroin possession: any small amount is, at a minimum, a third degree crime.
- Cocaine possession: any small amount is at least a third degree crime
- Methamphetamine possession, at least a third degree crime
- LSD possession: at minimum, a third degree offense
- Molly/ecstasy/MDMA possession: typically a third degree crime
- Prescription drug possession, such as Xanax, Adderall, Percocet, Oxycontin, the degree of which is determined by the number of pills or units involved
- Synthetic marijuana charges: minimum of a fourth degree crime, but could be more serious depending on the amount.
The above is not an exhaustive list and the range of substances are more fully set forth on the list of controlled dangerous substances known as “Schedules.” Notably, having larger quantities may result in more severe crimes of possession with intent to distribute being filed against a minor.
What are the penalties for Juvenile Drug Offenses in New Jersey?
For an offense involving a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), the court takes many factors into consideration when sentencing a juvenile. For instance, the judge must consider the offense itself, the prior juvenile record, whether social services have been received, whether the sentence supports the wellbeing of the child and family, the level of participation needed by the parent and how the sentence contributes to the child’s overall well-being. Other factors can be considered as well.
Of course, as with all things, there is a baseline or a backdrop that the court can operate from. These sentencing guidelines form the basis of a potential sentence for a juvenile ordered to serve time in a juvenile detention facility:
- First degree: up to 4 years in a state facility for juveniles
- Second degree: up to 3 years in a state facility for juveniles
- Third degree: up to 2 years in a state facility, including drug cases.
- Fourth degree: including drug cases up to 1 year in a juvenile detention center
- Disorderly persons offense: up to 6 months
- Petty disorderly persons offense: up to 90 days.
This is not to say that other options are not available. For example, the court can also order a deferred disposition in which the charges will be dismissed if all conditions are met. Similarly, the court can order probation, community service, participation in a program, or any combination thereof. Ultimately, if you have a juvenile charged with a drug crime in New Jersey, there are countless outcomes that are available to both the court and your child.
Juvenile CDS Possession Attorneys in Edison, New Jersey
Our Middlesex County juvenile attorneys can help achieve the best result for your criminal case involving drugs by navigating the system, putting you on the right path, and arguing vehemently on your child’s behalf. Contact us today at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation.