Juvenile Justice Division
The Juvenile Justice Division of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of “crimes or offenses” committed by persons under the age of 18.
Each year, the Juvenile Justice Division is involved in documenting or prosecuting over 4,000 juvenile acts of delinquency. Those acts of delinquency range from shoplifting to robbery and homicide. As such, the Juvenile Justice Division is involved in all stages of the criminal process from complaint through disposition.
The Juvenile Justice Division is comprised of a staff of twelve, including four Assistant Prosecutors, five investigators, one victim advocate and two clerical staff members. That staff is engaged each day with trial preparation, charging advice and instruction to local law enforcement, case management conferences and motions.
In New Jersey, juvenile matters are heard in the Family Court. There are three integral elements to each juvenile matter: public safety, accountability, and rehabilitation.
Consistent with those goals and in an effort to most effectively utilize the resources available to the Juvenile Justice Division, each week juvenile acts of delinquency are reviewed by an Assistant Prosecutor, a Detective and the Family Court staff.
This screening process has been developed to better handle the wide variety of juvenile offenses and offenders. The primary purpose of screening is to determine how that juvenile complaint should be prosecuted.
There are several ways in which to handle juvenile complaints. There are diversionary programs, designed for less serious offenses and younger offenders. There are Juvenile Hearing officers “referees” that handle more serious acts of delinquency. And finally, there is the Court Mandatory calendar.
Juvenile Conference Committee
The most basic of the diversionary programs, the Juvenile Conference Committees (JCCs), are comprised of community volunteers.
Most municipalities within Ocean County have a local JCC that handles crimes or violations that are committed by juveniles living in that community. The JCCs are typically responsible for handling the least serious offenses committed by the youngest offenders (generally ages 8-12).
Intake Services Conference
Intake Services is staffed with Probation Officers. This type of diversionary program is designed for juveniles who may have a prior offense or who need more supervision than a JCC can provide.
Typically, there are requirements which must be met before the juvenile can complete this program.
The juvenile referee is a hearing officer that handles matters that are too serious to be diverted to a JCC or an Intake officer.
Typically, these are cases that may require reporting probation or other significant penalties, not including incarceration.
The matters that are usually screened to the referee are those where the juvenile did not respond to the other diversionary programs or where the offense is sufficiently serious to require reporting probation but not incarceration.
Court Mandatory Counsel
Having a matter screened “Court Mandatory Counsel” signifies that the offense is sufficiently serious to require incarceration or other out-of-home, court-ordered placement.
A matter is typically screened Court Mandatory if juveniles have a history of less serious offenses and has not remained law abiding or where an offense is a serious matter.
Because the juvenile faces incarceration, the law requires that the juvenile be represented by an attorney. That attorney can be privately retained or can be through the Office of the Public Defender if the juvenile’s guardian meets the established criteria.
Court Mandatory Counsel cases are heard before a Superior Court Judge assigned to the Family Division. Each year there are approximately 1,800 cases handled by that Judge.
Juvenile Fugitive Task Force
The Juvenile Justice Unit also has an established Fugitive Task Force which, in conjunction with the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, is responsible for the apprehension of juvenile fugitives.
Outstanding warrants are reviewed on a regular basis by a Sergeant assigned to the Juvenile Justice Unit. An effort is consistently made by this Division to ensure that all active warrants are processed.
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative
The Juvenile Justice Division in Ocean County is also involved in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).
This program is a nationwide program designed to maintain public safety while using secure incarceration for the most serious offenders. This program enables this County to keep secure the most dangerous juvenile offenders while using alternatives for less serious acts of delinquency.
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