This matter comes before the court by motion, brought in the victim's name, seeking the disclosure of certain records concerning unnamed juveniles allegedly involved in the theft of and subsequent damage to movant's automobile. Specifically, the motion requests disclosure of the juveniles' names and addresses and relevant court records, discovery and police records. The moving papers assert that disclosure is necessary to commence a civil action against the juveniles. Inspection of the record reveals that no charges were ever brought against the juveniles as a result of this incident. The only relevant record presently before this court is a police accident and continuation report.
The motion raises two distinct issues: whether the court can disclose names and addresses when the juveniles have not been charged with an offense arising out of the incident in question and whether the court can disclose a copy of police records regarding the incident.
The court's authority to disclose information regarding juveniles is set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60. The obvious intent of the Legislature is that disclosure of juvenile records is to be the exception, not the rule. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60(a), (f). Disclosure is clearly proscribed until the requirements of the enumerated exceptions of N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60(a) to (c) are met.
In the present matter, movant seeks disclosure of the juveniles' names and addresses pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60(c):
Information as to the identity of a juvenile the offense charged, the adjudication and disposition shall be disclosed to:
On its face the statute seems to require disclosure of juveniles' names and addresses to the movant in this matter, regardless of whether the juveniles were charged with a juvenile offense. However, when section (c) is read in conjunction with the rest of the statute, the relevant legislative history and the case law interpreting the statutory predecessor of N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60, it is clear that section (c) applies only to those juveniles who have been charged with a juvenile offense.*fn1
A careful reading of section (c)(1) to (4) supports the court's holding. Section (c) contains several phrases which indicate that a juvenile offense charge is presumed to have occurred. Specifically, the first sentence of section (c) refers to disclosing "the offense charged" and "the adjudication and disposition." N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60(c). Section (c)(2) requires that disclosure be made to law enforcement agencies that "filed the complaint." N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60(c)(2). Section (c)(4) requires disclosure to a party "in a subsequent legal proceeding involving the juvenile" which implies that there was a prior legal proceeding. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60.
The meaning of section (c) is further clarified by the language utilized in section (a):
Social, medical, psychological, legal and other records of the court and probation department, and records of law enforcement agencies, pertaining to a juvenile charged as a delinquent . . . shall be strictly safeguarded from public inspection. . . . [ N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60(a)]
Clearly section (a) applies only to records of juveniles who have been charged with offenses. While the ...