The issue presented before this court was brought by the Public Defender by way of a motion to dismiss a criminal contempt complaint against a status offender involved in crisis intervention and appears to be a matter of first impression. This court must decide whether to allow the imposition of criminal sanctions which will, effectively elevate the juvenile to the status of a delinquent.
The factual circumstances of this case began when on May 19, 1992 a juvenile delinquency complaint was signed against J.S. for assault and improper behavior. The complaint went to Intake Services Conference and placed on abeyance for three months. A second complaint was also signed having the same Disposition. Due to ongoing conflict within the home, a family crisis intervention petition was subsequently filed on June 17, 1992. The juvenile was released to her mother, and was ordered to attend individual and family counseling. The therapist recommended that the juvenile continue therapy, with her own individual therapist. Additionally, the recommendation stressed that as more individual issues were resolved, more conjoint sessions could take place with the mother. Five days later, the juvenile's grandmother was granted temporary custody. The mother was to undergo psychiatric and psychological evaluations within 90 days.
DYFYS was ordered to do a home evaluation. Temporary custody was then granted to the juvenile's uncle, and the juvenile was ordered not to run. On February 3, 1993, temporary custody was granted to the Pearlman family. There was to be joint
counseling with the juvenile's therapist. On February 23, 1993, the juvenile was released to the mother. A curfew was ordered for 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday. On March 4, 1993 a supplemental order to the February 23 order was entered ordering the juvenile to attend school daily. The Highland Park Board of Education was ordered to do a child study team evaluation, and release the information to DYFYS. The court also ordered that if the juvenile were to violate any of the court orders, the mother was to notify the local police and the juvenile was to be arrested and detained.
On March 4, 1993, the juvenile allegedly violated her curfew. As a result, a complaint was signed charging the juvenile with violation of a court order contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9. A preliminary hearing was held the next day at which time the juvenile was remanded to detention, on furlough to the shelter on override awaiting the first available bed. The juvenile was ordered not to run and to obey the shelter rules. On March 16, 1993, the juvenile entered a not guilty plea and was remanded to the shelter on furlough status. On April 7, 1993 the juvenile was remanded back to the shelter, and the formal trial was adjourned without date since the Public Defender filed a notice of motion that day to dismiss the complaint arguing that N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-20 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 5601 et seq. bar delinquency prosecution of juveniles involved in family crisis situations, despite the juvenile's purposeful or knowing non-compliance with the Family Crisis Intervention Order. The State was granted time to reply to the motion and hearing was set down for motion day on April 30, 1993.
The Public Defender argues that statutory and judicial distinctions between a status offender and a juvenile delinquent preclude such a determination. In support of this, The Public Defender cites 42 U.S.C. § 5601, et seq., the federal statute promulgating the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, as well as N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-22 et seq. promulgated in New Jersey to reflect the federal law. Both statutes make distinctions between the
status offender and the delinquent, with the former being defined in New Jersey as "Juvenile Family Crisis." Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-22(g) provides for the "well-being and physical safety of a juvenile," as opposed to societal protection as in the case of a juvenile delinquent.
The Public Defender also relies on In the Interest of M.S., 73 N.J. 238, 374 A.2d 445 (1977). In M.S., the juvenile was classified under the then existing Juvenile Act as a "juvenile in need of supervision," and placed in a shelter care facility, from which the juvenile left without permission. The trial Judge ruled that the juvenile committed an act which would constitute escape if committed by an adult, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:104-6. The juvenile was therefore adjudicated a delinquent in keeping with N.J.S.A. 2A:4-44. On certification the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, holding that the juvenile's conduct was not in the ". . . category of a criminal escape . . ." and was ". . . symptomatic of the very problem for which shelter care is being provided." Supra 73 N.J. at 244, 374 A.2d 445. The defense argues that the classification in M.S. is ...