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State in Interest of D.J.C.

Decided: June 16, 1992.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF D.J.C.


On appeal from Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County.

King, Dreier and Gruccio. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gruccio, J.A.D.

Gruccio

The opinion of the court was delivered by

GRUCCIO, J.A.D.

This is an appeal from a dismissal of the State's juvenile complaint for failure to provide discovery. The alleged conduct, if committed by an adult, would constitute second degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b; attempted theft, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and 2C:20-3; eluding a police officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b and simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1a(1). These complaints were filed February 4, 1991, relating to an incident that occurred on January 30, 1991.

A car operated by D.J.C. pulled up to S.N., age 10, who was selling American flags by the curb near his home. His father, Lt. N., a lieutenant in the Rutherford police department, witnessed the incident. V.C., a passenger in the car driven by D.J.C., asked S.N. what the flags were made of and asked to feel them. V.C. leaned out of the car and attempted to grab the flags from the child's hand. The vehicle began to pull away from the curb. Lt. N. signaled the driver to pull over, but, instead, he sped off. Lt. N. got into his personal car and pursued the suspect. At one point, he got the car to pull over, stepped out of his car, held up his badge and ordered the driver to pull the vehicle over to the curb. The driver sped off. Lt. N. pursued him, and after making several turns, J.D.C. failed to stop at a stop sign and nearly crashed his car into Lt. C., an off-duty

police officer, who then joined the pursuit. D.J.C. was finally stopped by traffic and both officers exited their vehicles. Lt. C. approached D.J.C.'s vehicle from the front and Lt. N. approached the driver's door. Lt. C. held up his arms and instructed the driver to get out of the car. D.J.C. accelerated the car and struck Lt. C., knocking him onto the hood and into the windshield. At the same time, the car ran over Lt. N.'s right foot, went over the sidewalk and left the scene. The car was subsequently traced to D.J.C.'s home. Fortunately, Lt. N. suffered no injury to his foot, and Lt. C. suffered minor back injuries.

A trial date of March 11, 1991, was assigned, which was 40 days following the incident. On March 5, 1991, D.J.C.'s attorney requested an adjournment of the March 11th date since he had not received the State's discovery. That request was denied. The State appeared on March 11, 1991, and also requested an adjournment, since two witnesses could not be secured and the local police had not yet furnished the prosecutor's office with the reports to be forwarded to defense counsel. The assigned Judge expressed distress over other cases in which police officers harassed families by "writing bogus complaints" and not showing up, and dismissed all the complaints against D.J.C.

The State immediately moved for reconsideration, but received no answer from the Judge. Accordingly, on April 24, 1991, the State filed a notice of appeal before the time to appeal expired. The Judge then responded by an opinion letter dated July 22, 1991, in which he stated that the motion had been mislaid when he moved his chambers in May 1991. He further stated that, in the four months during which he had been hearing juvenile cases, he found that police officers often did not respond to subpoenas and discovery is not expeditiously obtained by the prosecutor's office and provided to the attorneys for juveniles. His stated policy was "that all juvenile

cases be adjudicated within three months of filing of the complaint, 30 days if the juvenile is in the Detention Center."*fn1

Here, however, D.J.C. was not detained at any time during the pendency of the proceedings. We find the Judge's action ...


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