On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County.
Before Judges Shebell, Skillman and Wallace.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
V.M., a juvenile, was charged with conduct, which if committed by an adult, would constitute receiving stolen property in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7. He entered into a plea agreement with the State whereby he would plead guilty and in return the State would recommend as a Disposition a twelve-month review. The court followed the recommendation and adjourned formal entry of Disposition of the case for a twelve-month period with the condition that V.M. attend school and abide by a curfew. If during this period V.M. makes a satisfactory adjustment, then the complaint would ultimately be dismissed.
The State now appeals contending that a review period is a Disposition under the Juvenile Code and therefore mandatory fines and penalties are required. Specifically, the State urges that the court erred in refusing to assess the penalties under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1*fn1
In construing a statute, we must first look at the wording of the statute to ascertain its plain meaning and intent. Town of Morristown v. Woman's Club of Morristown, 124 N.J. 605, 610, 592 A.2d 216 (1991); Kimmelman v. Henkels & McCoy, Inc., 108 N.J. 123, 128, 527 A.2d 1368 (1987). If a statute's language is "plain and clearly reveals the meaning of the statute, the court's sole function is to enforce the statute in accordance with those terms." Dep't of Law and Public Safety v. Bigham, 119 N.J. 646, 651, 575 A.2d 868 (1990).
N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43 is titled "Disposition of delinquency cases." It provides in relevant part that:
b. If a juvenile is adJudged delinquent, and except to the extent that an additional specific Disposition is required pursuant to subsection e. or f. of this section, the court may order incarceration pursuant to section 25 of this act or any one or more of the following Dispositions:
(1) Adjourn formal entry of Disposition of the case for a period not to exceed 12 months for the purpose of determining whether the juvenile makes a satisfactory adjustment, and if during the period of continuance the juvenile makes such an adjustment, dismiss the complaint; provided that if the court adjourns formal entry of Disposition of delinquency for a violation of an offense defined in chapter 35 or 36 of Title 2C, of the New Jersey Statutes the court shall assess the mandatory penalty set forth in N.J.S. 2C:35-15 but may waive imposition of the penalty set forth in N.J.S. 2C:35-16 for juveniles adjudicated delinquent;
[(Emphasis added) (Footnote omitted).
Even though subsection b(1) characterizes the review Period as one which would "adjourn formal entry of Disposition," it is nonetheless listed as a formal Disposition. Moreover, where a violation involves an offense under Chapter 35 or 36, certain consequences such as the penalty set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-15 apply. Accordingly, we are satisfied that N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43 is clear that the placement of a juvenile under a twelve-month adjustment is a Disposition. The more difficult question is what consequences flow from this form of Disposition.
The trial court refused to impose penalties pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1 on the theory that a review period is not a Disposition which triggers those penalties. As noted, we conclude that "a review period" pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43b(1) is a Disposition. Subject to subsection e. and f., the only mandatory penalty provided in this section concerns violations under chapter 35 or 36 of Title 2C. Thus on its face, the statute does not require the imposition of penalties mandated by statutes applicable to criminal proceedings.
Nevertheless, the State urges that N.J.S.A. 2C:20-2.1 should be applied to all juveniles adjudicated delinquent, and not merely juveniles waived to adult court. See State in the Interest of N.S., supra, 272 N.J. Super. 492 ...