For reversal and remandment -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Sullivan, J.
[73 NJ Page 241] This appeal involves similar but unrelated conduct by four juveniles which resulted in their being charged with delinquency for having left a shelter care facility without permission.*fn1 They were tried separately in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (Juvenile Court). In each case the trial judge ruled that the juvenile had
committed an act which if committed by an adult would constitute the crime of "escape" in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:104-6. Each juvenile, therefore, was adjudicated a delinquent under N.J.S.A. 2A:4-44. In one of the cases, State, In Interest of M.S., the opinion of the court is reported. 129 N.J. Super. 61 (J. & D.R. Ct. 1974).
Appeals were filed in each case and were consolidated for argument in the Appellate Division which upheld the adjudications of delinquency. State In Interest of M.S., E.O., D.K. and E.M., 139 N.J. Super. 503 (1976). This Court granted certification on application of the four juveniles. 71 N.J. 328 (1976). We now reverse.
In order to understand the issue presented, some discussion of our Juvenile Act, which became effective March 1, 1974, is appropriate. One of the Act's purposes is "to remove from children committing delinquent acts certain statutory consequences of criminal behavior, and to substitute therefor an adequate program of supervision, care and rehabilitation." N.J.S.A. 2A:4-42(b). Accordingly, the Act differentiates between acts of serious misconduct by a juvenile which constitute delinquency, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-44,*fn2 and those of a lesser degree of misconduct, commission
of which classify the juvenile as "in need of supervision" (JINS). N.J.S.A. 2A:4-45.*fn3
Under the statute a delinquent is one who is guilty of serious antisocial conduct which, depending on circumstances, may require detention. On the other hand, a JINS is one who has not really committed an offense against society but only against his or her own best interests.
A juvenile charged with delinquency may be placed in detention (physically restricted facilities) for temporary care pending court disposition. N.J.S.A. 2A:4-56(b). A juvenile charged with conduct which under the Act classifies him as being "in need of supervision" cannot be placed in detention but may only be placed in shelter care (without physical restriction) pending court disposition. N.J.S.A. 2A:4-56(c). In short, where temporary care of juveniles is required, those charged with serious misconduct are treated differently and are kept separate and apart from those charged with acts of lesser misconduct.
In each of the cases before us the juvenile was originally charged with conduct which under the Act classified
the juvenile as being in need of supervision. N.J.S.A. 2A:4-45. Each, by court order, was placed in a shelter care facility pending court disposition. The particular shelter facilities are housed in the YM-YWCA building in Newark. Each juvenile left the shelter without permission, and, having been brought before the Juvenile Court, was adjudicated a delinquent on the ground that this ...