NEW JERSEY – In an effort to ensure the fair trial and investigation of juveniles within the state, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee this week advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Nellie Pou, which would authorize underage accused persons to have an attorney present throughout their time within the criminal justice system.
“Children involved in the justice system face a diverse range of collateral consequences that can have both immediate and long-term impacts on their well-being,” said Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This legislation would ensure that juveniles are provided with legal representation as early as possible to reduce the possibility of any inappropriate treatment, while also preventing any other form of injustice from occurring.”
The bill, S-269, would clarify that a juvenile has the right to an attorney during every court appearance, any interrogation, identification procedure, or other investigative activity undertaken by law enforcement, and throughout the duration of any dispositional order entered by the court.
“Juveniles are inherently vulnerable, which is intensified and sometimes exploited once they enter the criminal justice system. We must ensure that they are afforded the right to legal representation throughout their time within the system, and this bill would be that guarantee,” said Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic).
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 3-0.