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Like most parents in New Jersey and across the country, you likely anticipated hitting a few rough patches with your child when he or she reached the teenage years. Though a sullen attitude and lack of interest in spending time with you may have been more of what you were expecting, you ended up in a more difficult predicament when your child ended up in trouble with law enforcement.

Understandably, you may immediately think that your child is going to jail and that he or she is at great risk. However, while serious risks to personal freedom do exist in this type of situation, your child may not immediately be heading to detention.

Was the case diverted?

Your child could have ended up in trouble with police for various reasons. Teenagers do not always make good choices when it comes to trying alcohol or drugs or even shoplifting. Before you begin to panic, you may want to determine what type of situation your child is facing, particularly a diverted or not diverted case. 

If an officer believed that probable cause existed to suspect your child of a crime, that officer likely took him or her into custody. However, your child may not have entered the juvenile justice system if the officer did not sign a delinquency complaint. If the officer did not believe that a crime of a serious nature occurred, your child may have simply been released to you, meaning the officer diverted the case.

What happens if a case is not diverted?

In some cases, such as when an officer believes a juvenile committed a more serious crime, the officer will not divert the case and will instead sign a delinquency complaint. If this happened, your child could end up having to stay in a secured detention center. However, the officer must make a request for admission into detention. Additionally, your child must meet at least some of the following criteria before being placed into a secure juvenile detention center in New Jersey:

  • Your child poses a threat to the community.
  • The court believes that your child is a flight risk or may otherwise not appear in court at a later date.
  • Your child is awaiting placement in an applicable juvenile program.

Fortunately, even if an officer signs a delinquency complaint, your child's case could still be diverted by the court depending on the circumstances. You undoubtedly do not want your child to face a more difficult process than necessary, and you can gain a better understanding of what exactly could happen with your child's case by speaking with an attorney experienced in juvenile law.

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