Juvenile Charged as an Adult - Juvenile Waiver Hearings
It is important to know that before waiving a juvenile to adult court, the juvenile court considers the magnitude of difference between being prosecuted as a juvenile and as an adult.
Juvenile vs. Adult Criminal Justice System
Unlike the New Jersey adult criminal justice system, the juvenile system provides and focuses on rehabilitation and reformation rather than incarceration. When considering the transfer of a juvenile to the adult criminal justice system, the State and the court must analyze the following:
(a) The nature and circumstances of the offense charged;
(b) Whether the offense was against a person or property, giving more weight for crimes against a person;
(c) Degree of the juvenile's responsibility;
(d) Age and maturity of the juvenile;
(e) Any classification that the juvenile is eligible for special education to the extent this information is provided to the prosecution by the minor or by the court;
(f) Degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the juvenile;
(g) Nature and extent of any prior history of delinquency of the juvenile and dispositions imposed for those adjudications;
(h) If the juvenile previously served a custodial disposition in a State juvenile facility operated by the Juvenile Justice Commission, and the response of the juvenile to the programs provided at the facility to the extent this information is provided to the prosecution by the Juvenile Justice Commission;
(i) Current or prior involvement of the juvenile with child welfare agencies;
(j) Evidence of mental health concerns, substance abuse, or emotional instability of the juvenile to the extent this information is provided to the prosecution by the juvenile or by the court; and
(k) If there is an identifiable victim, the input of the victim or victim's family.
Sequence of the Hearing
The waiver motions fall categorically within the purview of the Family Part. The judge can sequence the hearing to ensure effective, timely management of the court's docket while balancing the juvenile's constitutional rights. If the attorney representing the juvenile wants to file a motion to suppress evidence, the court may entertain this motion before the waiver hearing. It could also be deferred to the adult court to consider the motion after the waiver.
Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis of the New Jersey Supreme Court recently agreed to an opinion where she would adopt a general preference for the Family Part to conduct suppression hearings before considering waiver motions. This is primarily because the entire case could be disposed of without the added pressure of being waived to the adult court. The majority decision in State in the Interest of E.S. A-41/42-21 is that the decision to listen to a suppression motion is solely at the discretion of the Family Part judge.
Requirements for Waiver Motion
The Juvenile Code allows prosecutors to seek to proceed in adult court against juveniles who have "committed certain serious offenses" through the waiver process outlined in N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26.1 Under the waiver statute, prosecutors have sixty days after receipt of a complaint to move for waiver.
For its waiver motion to be granted, the prosecution must establish that
- [t]he juvenile was fifteen years of age or older at the time of the alleged delinquent act;
- [t]here is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed a delinquent act which if committed by an adult, would constitute" one or more enumerated offenses. Id. at (c)(1) to (2);
- Probable cause signifies that there “is ‘a well-grounded suspicion or belief that the juvenile committed the alleged crime.’” State v. A.D., 212 N.J. 200, 205 (2012) (quoting State v. J.M., 182 N.J. 402, 417 (2005)).
What Happens at a Waiver Hearing?
At a waiver hearing, the court reviews the evidence offered by both the State and the juvenile. In general, if the prosecution makes the requisite showing, “the court shall waive jurisdiction of a juvenile delinquency case.”
"The court may deny a motion by the prosecutor to waive jurisdiction of a juvenile delinquency case if it is clearly convinced that the prosecutor abused his discretion in considering the [eleven statutory] factors in deciding whether to seek a waiver." The prosecutor's decision does not bind the court; it reviews the decision under an abuse of discretion standard.
Remember that New Jersey’s Juvenile Code seeks to “provide balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed, fostering interaction and dialogue between the offender, victim, and community, and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community.” N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-21(f).
At the waiver hearing, a juvenile can testify and present evidence, including expert reports. Please note that deciding whether or not to testify should be made after consultation with an experienced attorney.
If you or someone you know has any questions regarding a juvenile charged with a criminal offense, please contact A. Brown Esq. L.L.C. for a consultation regarding your case or call 973-281-2388.