In State of New Jersey in the Interest of A.C., a juvenile was arrested in December 2010 as a result of a three count complaint alleging that he had committed two acts of first degree aggravated sexual assault and a second degree sexual assault on a separate occasion. The previous blog post compared juvenile and adult status under Megan’s Law, while this post focuses on the court’s policy considerations in denial of the juvenile’s right to a jury trial in the A.C. case.
The defendant challenged the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-40, insofar as it denies a juvenile the right to a jury trial, asserting violations of the New Jersey Constitution, Article 1, §§ 9 and 10, and the United States Constitution under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The court’s denial of the defendant’s claim for a jury trial rested on policy concerns that separate juvenile court from criminal court. First, the Juvenile Code makes clear that juvenile court proceedings are not criminal prosecutions. Unlike standard criminal court, the primary objective of the juvenile system is to provide rehabilitation, while providing a minimal amount of incarceration consistent with the public’s interest in health and safety. Alternatively, the criminal courts primary objective is to punish adult wrongdoers for illegal acts. Further, the juvenile system is intended to preserve the unity of the family whenever possible and, at the same time, ensure that incarceration provides an adequate program of supervision, care and rehabilitation for juvenile offenders. Ultimately, bench trials within the Family Division allow the court system to promote the rehabilitative process, while maintaining the dichotomy between juvenile proceedings and criminal trials. However, as noted in the previous blogs, juveniles suffer the same serious consequences of Megan’s Law as adults, so there is a real question as to whether they should therefore have the same right to a jury trial.
Timothy Farrow, of Dash Farrow, LLP, is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former Prosecutor who handles these offenses and crimes, misdemeanors, and traffic offenses of all levels. When you need experienced, focused, and responsive legal help, call Dash Farrow, LLP at 856-235-8300 or contact us online at www.dashfarrow.com. We serve individuals and businesses throughout Burlington and Camden County and all of South Jersey.