On appeal from the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County.
King, Long and Stern. The opinion of the court was delivered by Stern, J.A.D.
The principal issues in this case deal with procedural rights of a juvenile charged with delinquency. With respect to the principal issues we hold that a trial judge, sitting as a fact finder, can correct an error in his findings sustaining a conviction while the matter is pending on appeal. We further hold that a juvenile must offer or acknowledge a factual basis for his guilty plea and has the right of allocution.
This appeal involves an adjudication of delinquency on two separate complaints. In one complaint, J.R. was charged with possession of two vials of crack cocaine on June 18, 1988, allegedly in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-23 and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a (Docket No. FJ 16-4784-88).*fn1 In the second complaint he was charged with possession and possession with intent to distribute heroin on December 6, 1988, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-23 and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(2) (possession with intent) and 2C:35-10a(1) (Docket No. FJ 16-2396-89).*fn2 Following trial on
the heroin charges, J.R. was adjudicated to be a delinquent on January 10, 1989.
Prior to sentencing on the heroin charges, J.R. entered a guilty plea to the complaint charging possession of the crack cocaine, Docket No. FJ 16-4784-88. At that time, his counsel explained that J.R. was pleading guilty to the possession of crack and abandoning his motion to suppress, in exchange for an understanding or agreement that the disposition would be concurrent with any disposition arising from the trial on the heroin charges.
The plea proceedings included the following colloquy between J.R. and his attorney:
Q. And you're pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty. Is that correct.
Q. On Complaint # 4784-88 you are charged with two vials of crack cocaine, possessing them. Is that correct.
Q. Did you know it was against the law to possess those two vials of crack cocaine.
The court explained to J.R. that "the agreement is that the sentences or dispositions will run concurrent. That is, at the same time", and J.R. expressed his understanding of the agreement. In response to the judge's final remark that he would "get no added time", J.R. again acknowledged his understanding.*fn3
In imposing sentence, the judge indicated that the heroin charge occurred while defendant was awaiting trial on the cocaine offense, but that, in any event, defendant was guilty of offenses occurring "on at least two occasions"; that "each and ...