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State in Interest of C.A.H.

Decided: May 19, 1982.


On a rehearing of the judgment of this Court, dated July 7, 1981.

For reversal and remandment -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock and O'Hern. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Handler, J.


In this case we must determine whether the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court properly applied the standards of the waiver statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48, in concluding that its jurisdiction over two juvenile offenders should not be waived. Most particularly, we must consider whether the court struck the proper balance between the statutory goals of protecting the public and encouraging the rehabilitation of offending juveniles under N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(c).

The juveniles, CAH and BAR, were arrested about two months after they had allegedly gone on a crime spree during which they armed themselves, stole and destroyed an automobile, committed two armed robberies and murdered one of the robbery victims. Juvenile complaints were filed against both CAH and BAR, charging offenses which would constitute the adult crimes of automobile theft, receiving stolen property, arson, armed robbery and felony murder. [89 NJ Page 329] The basic facts governing this appeal were developed during a hearing before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to determine whether the circumstances justified the waiver of its jurisdiction under N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48. Although there are some disputes, the essential facts establishing probable cause that crimes were committed appear to be as follows. On the night of May 3, 1979, the two juveniles, CAH and BAR, and a young adult, Edward Margie, decided to rob some stores in Middlesex County. BAR was then 17 1/2 years of age, CAH just under 17, and Margie over 18 years old. When they set out, CAH took a revolver which both he and BAR knew was loaded. The two juveniles then stole a car from a dealer's lot in the Borough of Sayreville. They picked up Margie and went to a Krauszer's Food Store in Edison. Margie went into the store with the gun and committed an armed robbery. They then drove to a food service establishment, Dunkin' Donuts, and asked persons there for directions to another Krauszer's Food Store. After obtaining directions, they drove to the second Krauszer's store, located in Fords, and this time BAR took the gun and entered the store to commit robbery. He pulled the gun on the clerk, who was standing behind the counter, and demanded money from the cash register. The clerk refused, and BAR then fired the gun at the clerk's face. The shot hit the clerk in the eye and killed him. BAR then went behind the counter, opened the cash register and took the money. While BAR was rifling the register, the clerk dead at his feet "with his eye hanging out," a customer walked in and, apparently unaware of the killing and robbery in progress, asked for cold cuts. BAR told the customer that "we weren't cutting no cold cuts this time of night or something like that," and the customer left. In the meantime Margie came into the store and viewed the scene, including the dead clerk. BAR then took the money and ran back to the car, and the trio drove off. The young men drove onto a deserted road and destroyed the car by setting it on fire. CAH then took back his gun, and he and BAR stole another vehicle and fled. They were not arrested until two months later in Salem County, at which

time they were travelling to Florida. When apprehended, they had the murder weapon with them.

The waiver statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48, provides that the juvenile court may waive jurisdiction if the juvenile is over 14 years of age, has committed a crime of a particular character and, further, the protection of society, together with the absence of any reasonable prospects of rehabilitation of the juvenile by the time he reaches 21 years of age call for waiver and referral of the juvenile for prosecution as an adult.

When the matter was first presented to the judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in this case, she concluded that the first two criteria of the waiver statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(a) and (b), relating to minimum age and the nature of the offense, were clearly met. With respect to the criteria of N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(c), the judge felt that the only unresolved issue concerned rehabilitation. She concluded on the basis of expert testimony that "some reasonable prospect of rehabilitation exists" for the juveniles prior to their reaching the age of twenty-one. Because the juveniles were homicide offenders and would be "contained" under an indeterminate-to-life term "so long as 'rehabilitation' requires," the court concluded that the second requirement under N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(c), the "adequate protection of society," was also satisfied.

On appeal the Appellate Division concluded that it was not possible to discern from the lower court's general findings whether the appropriate statutory standard had been applied, particularly the "standard [which] requires that significant weight be given to the safety and welfare of the public and the nature of the offense." 178 N.J. Super. 157, at 161. The court also stressed the lack of clarity and a possible misapprehension on the part of the trial judge regarding the statutory standards of rehabilitation and its interrelation with the protection of society under N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(c). It noted the apparent inconsistency in the lower court's opinion that, on the one hand, the juveniles had a reasonable prospect for rehabilitation before

reaching age 21 and that, on the other, they would or could be subject to indefinite incarceration. Id. at 162. The appellate court accordingly remanded the matter to the juvenile judge for detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning each juvenile.

The juvenile court then submitted additional findings and conclusions. It stated that it had previously weighed the requirements concerning adequate protection of the public and the realistic rehabilitation of the juveniles. It found generally that the Juvenile Homicide Unit at Yardville was both successful in rehabilitating juvenile homicide offenders and adequate to provide maximum security. The court considered conflicting expert testimony as to each juvenile. It concluded that, as to both juveniles, there was "a realistic possibility of successful rehabilitation by 21" through the use of the Yardville facilities and services. The court also concluded that "[a]dequate protection of the public" depends on rehabilitation and, since the juveniles could be sentenced to indeterminate terms for life, "containment" of the juveniles in a secure institution would continue "for as long as the safety and welfare of the public requires."

In reviewing that determination, the Appellate Division noted that the juvenile court again had failed to indicate specifically any consideration of the nature of the offenses, of the events surrounding the homicide and of the interest of society served by deterring future crime. Nevertheless, the Appellate Division assumed that the trial judge did make such an evaluation. Although it acknowledged that it would not have refused waiver as a matter of original jurisdiction, the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the juvenile judge, concluding that her detailed findings were minimally sufficient to support the refusal to waive jurisdiction. The matter is now before this Court on the juveniles' motion for reconsideration of our previous order in which, after granting the State's motion for leave to appeal, we summarily reversed the lower court decisions.

This case requires us to explain how the statutory standards of N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48 are to be applied in order to determine whether the jurisdiction of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court should be waived. We now hold that the statutory criteria concerning the age of the juvenile and the nature of the crime, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(a) and (b), are not only applied separately but are also relevant in applying the criteria relating to the protection of the public and the rehabilitative prospects of the juvenile offender in N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(c). We further hold that the criterion in N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(c) concerning the protection of society requires that the waiver decision must include consideration of the goals of deterrence and punishment, as well as physical security against harm from the offender. Finally, we hold that under the second statutory criterion in N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48(c), that to justify waiver there must be "no reasonable prospects" for rehabilitation, two successive determinations may be required. The first is whether rehabilitation can realistically be achieved through available facilities by the time the juvenile reaches age 21. If, but only if, there is a realistic prospect for such rehabilitation, the juvenile court must then determine whether the need for deterrence in the given case outweighs the evidence in favor of rehabilitation.


The waiver statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:4-48 specifically provides:

a. The juvenile was 14 years of age or older at the time of the charged delinquent act;

b. There is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed a delinquent act which would constitute homicide * * * if committed by an adult or committed an offense against the person in an aggressive, violent and willful manner * * * and

c. The court is satisfied that adequate protection of the public requires waiver and is satisfied there are no reasonable prospects for rehabilitation of the juvenile prior to his attaining the age of majority by use of the procedures, services and facilities available to the court.

The statute thus contains four basic standards to be applied in a juvenile waiver determination. These relate to (1) the age of the juvenile; (2) the kind of crime committed; (3) the protection of the public and (4) the prospects for ...

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