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Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

New Jersey’s purpose clause is longer and amended more often than in most states. It retains parens patriae language from the Standard Juvenile Court Act (1959) and due process elements and language from the Legislative Guide for Drafting Family and Juvenile Court Acts (1969) of that era. It meets criteria for BARJ as it mentions services and sanctions will, "consistent with the protection of the public interest...provide balanced attention to the protection of the community...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." In 2016, an amendment added that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration for any action undertaken within provisions of the act. NJ is one of few states that mentions sexually exploited juveniles charged with prostitution or alleged victims of human trafficking as part of its purpose clause.

NJ ST §2A:4A-21

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and court diversion decision is at the discretion of the prosecutor or the juvenile court intake officer, divided by offense.

In New Jersey, the county Juvenile Family Crisis Intervention Unit can prevent referrals to court when juveniles are taken into short-term custody by police for lower-level offenses. When staff believes community services have been exhausted, yet the juvenile-family crisis continues, the JPO will file a petition. Many alleged delinquent offenses (1st-4th degree crimes, etc.) require referral to the court. 

Once a formal complaint of delinquency or juvenile-family crisis comes to the attention of the court’s intake service (JPO), a copy of the complaint is given to the county prosecutor (DA). The DA must consent to court diversion for some alleged offenses or a petition must be filed.  The JPO, child, and parent may sign an agreement that can go up to 6 months, which can be extended by the court for 6 more months.

The Intake JPO has 5 days to make initial recommendations to the judge and will also notify the DA and complainant of the reasons for proposed diversion. A hearing can be held to decide whether to divert the matter, as all parties have the right to be heard. The court can dismiss the complaint or divert the complaint (to a court-designated, may be county operated) intake service conference, juvenile conference committee, or Juvenile Family Crisis Intervention Unit. The written diversion agreement may include 'voluntary' non-secure placement.

Once the petition is filed, the court can adjudicate but continue the matter and “adjourn formal entry of disposition” to await successful completion of the diversion program. Mandatory penalties are assessed, but imposition can be waived by the court. The continuance can not exceed 12 months, and the complaint can be dismissed upon successful completion.

Statutory time limits for pre- & post-petition court diversions exist.

In New Jersey, pre-petition diversion agreements can be monitored informally for up to 6 months, and extended another 6 months by the court.  Once a petition is filed, the matter can be continued for up to one year while the judge “adjourns formal entry of disposition."

Courtroom shackling, 2015

No statewide restriction

Competency, 2015

New Jersey juvenile statute applies most rights guaranteed to (adult) criminal defendants to delinquency. A juvenile found to lack mental capacity may not waive any right, and a guardian ad litem (who must work in the child’s best interest) is appointed to consult with the juvenile and juvenile’s counsel (who works for the child’s wishes). New Jersey’s (adult) code of criminal justice aligns with the Dusky standard, stating: no person who lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense shall be tried [convicted or sentenced] for the commission of an offense so long as such incapacity endures.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


About this project

Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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