The above-named defendant was tried before me on an indictment charging him with violation of N.J.S. 2 A:96-4. The indictment, entitled "Contributing to delinquency of child," was returned by the Hudson County grand jury under date of May 3, 1954. At the close of the State's case, the defendant moved for judgment of acquittal on the grounds that (1) since the statute is silent as to the age of a child thus involved and it appearing that the State's witness was a girl of 17 years, there could be no conviction under the present indictment; and (2) that the statute, being vague, indefinite and uncertain in its language, is unconstitutional, it being violative of the due process clause of the United States Constitution.
I reserved decision on the motion. Defendant then rested and renewed his motion for acquittal. I directed counsel to furnish briefs in support of their contentions and reserved decision.
The statute under review, N.J.S. 2 A:96-4, is entitled, "Contributing to delinquency of child" and provides:
"A parent, legal guardian or person having the custody or control of a child, who by any continued negligence or willful act, encourages, causes or contributes to the child's delinquency, or any other person who by any willful act encourages, causes or contributes to a child's delinquency, is guilty of a misdemeanor."
This section was created under the revision of Title 2 of the Revised Statutes of New Jersey as adopted by the Legislature on December 5, 1951 and made effective January 1, 1952. It is included in chapter 96, which is headed "Children" and consists of five sections. Section 1 refers to the concealment of the birth of an illegitimate child or death of any child. Section 2 refers to hiring out or employing minors for mendicant or immoral purposes. The minor must be a child under 18 years of age. Section 3 refers to debauching or impairing the morals of a child under 16. Section 4 is quoted above. It should be noted that the age of the child is not specified. Section 5 refers to hiring, employing or using a child under 18 years of age in connection with the transportation or sale of drugs for any unlawful purpose.
Upon reading the entire chapter, it is, obviously, the intent of the Legislature to penalize adults for their abuse of and misconduct towards children as described in the five sections. The intent is the essence and the life of a law. Glick v. Trustees of Free Public Library of City of Newark , 2 N.J. 579, 585 (1949). And where a section is not entirely clear, statutes in pari materia are to be construed together so as to effectuate the general legislative policy. Lynch v. Borough of Edgewater , 8 N.J. 279, 286 (1951). Since the statute under review directly involves delinquency of a child, the most direct source of information on this subject is the Juvenile Court Act. This act was revised and re-enacted by the Legislature, effective January 1, 1952.
The pertinent section, N.J.S. 2 A:4-14, provides that:
"* * * Juvenile delinquency is hereby defined as the commission by a child under 18 years of age
(1) of any act which when committed by a person of the age of 18 years or ...