Justia Juvenile Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Jersey Supreme Court
In the Interest of A.W.
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether a thirteen-year-old's confession provided outside of the presence of his father should have been suppressed. After it was reported that thirteen-year-old A.W. sexually touched his five-year-old cousin K.P, A.W.'s father voluntarily brought him to the county child advocacy center for an interview. A.W. is bilingual, but because his father speaks very little English, the interview was conducted initially entirely in Spanish. A detective advised A.W. and his father of A.W.'s rights using a pre-printed juvenile rights form, written in Spanish. A.W. initially denied touching K.P. and blamed their other cousin J. At A.W.'s request, the detective permitted him to state what J. had said about touching K.P. in English, but then resumed the questioning in Spanish. Approximately twenty minutes into the interview, A.W. asked in English, "could I tell everything in private, like without my dad here, outside, it will be easier." The detective explained that to his father in Spanish. Although A.W.'s father immediately stood up to leave, the detective advised A.W.'s father that he would need to waive his right to be present during the interview before leaving and that he could return to the interview room at any time. A.W.'s father then signed the required parental waiver form without objection and left the interview room. Thereafter, A.W. continued to deny wrongdoing before eventually admitting that he had touched K.P. sexually. A.W. was charged as a juvenile with two counts of aggravated sexual assault. Considering the totality of the circumstances, A.W.'s father willingly and voluntarily left the interview room, the questioning comported with the highest standards of fundamental fairness and due process, and the confession was made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily; the Supreme Court concluded A.W.'s confession was admissible. View "In the Interest of A.W." on Justia Law
State In the Interest of V.A.
The issue before the Supreme Court centered on a decision by a county prosecutor to seek waiver of three juveniles, aged sixteen at the time of their offenses, to adult court for acts of delinquency that, as charged, were equivalent to aggravated assault, robbery, and second-degree conspiracy. A Family Part judge found probable cause that the juveniles committed the offenses but denied the waiver motion. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the Family Part overstepped its bounds. The case called into question the standard of review to be exercised by a court reviewing such motions for waiver. "An abuse of discretion review does not allow the court to substitute its judgment for that of the prosecutor. Rather, a review for abuse of discretion involves a limited but nonetheless substantive review to ensure that the prosecutor’s individualized decision about the juvenile before the court, as set forth in the statement of reasons, is not arbitrary or abusive of the considerable discretion allowed to the prosecutor by statute. Cursory or conclusory statements as justification for waiver will not suffice to allow the court to perform its review under the abuse of discretion standard because such statements provide no meaningful explanation of the prosecutor’s reasoning." Applying that standard, the Court held that in this case the prosecutor’s explanation in the Statements of Reasons lacked detail. The Court reversed and remanded this case for a more full explanation by the prosecutor according to the new standard outlined in the Court's opinion. View "State In the Interest of V.A." on Justia Law