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State in Interest of M.C.

August 14, 1995

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF: M. C., A JUVENILE.


Gannon, J.s.c.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gannon

OPINION

GANNON, J.S.C.

The issue raised at the time of the Disposition in this juvenile delinquency case requires an examination of the authority of the court to order restitution as a condition of probation for certain expenses incurred on behalf of the minor victim and paid for by her mother. The juvenile defendant in this case, M.C., had previously entered a plea of guilty on March 1, 1994, to one count of aggravated criminal sexual contact in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(a) following the completion of a psychosexual evaluation at the Juvenile Evaluation and Treatment Services Program at Morristown Memorial Hospital. The juvenile defendant later appeared before the court on March 23, 1994 for a Dispositional hearing. At that time the court placed the juvenile on probation for a period of two years under conditions which included the payment of restitution, the extent of which and amount was reserved pending further review by the court.

The charge against the juvenile in this case arose out of a course of conduct over a period of several years which started when the unrelated female victim, J.C., was eight years old. M.C. was one of a group of four boys in the neighborhood where J.C. resided and with whom she associated. Over a two year period M.C. and several other male juveniles sexually abused the victim, J.C.

After discovering the sexual abuse of her daughter, C.H., the mother of J.C., enrolled her in a program of psychotherapy. As part of the program of psychotherapy the victim's mother, C.H. was required to participate in the therapy for the purpose of learning to respond appropriately to her daughter's fears in order to deal with her ongoing revelations of other incidents of sexual abuse. Neither J.C. nor her mother, C.H. were engaged in psychotherapy prior to her revelation of these sexual assaults.

In addition to the psychotherapy, the victim's mother felt it necessary for her to hire individuals to accompany J.C. to and from her school bus stop and to supervise her after school hours when J.C. would be at home alone prior to the return of her mother from work. C.H. is a single parent who receives Social Security benefits for J.C. and felt that it was necessary to hire an adult to supervise her daughter after school, because M.C. continued to live in the same neighborhood following his arrest and he would frequently be seen in the neighborhood, along with the other juveniles who had sexually abused J.C.

The issue presented for this court's determination is whether all of the monetary expenditures for psychotherapy and after school care procured by the victim's mother should be ordered to be paid by the juvenile as restitution in this case. The total out of pocket expenses paid for by C.H. on behalf of herself and her daughter for psychotherapy after reimbursement from her health insurance carrier amounted to $2,380.50. In addition, a total of $500.00 was paid to the adult supervisors for J.C. while her mother was at work before and after school hours.

Counsel for the victim argues that restitution should be permitted pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3. While instructive, this statute is not determinative in this juvenile delinquency case, since it applies to the Disposition of adult criminal offenders under the Code of Criminal Justice who are sentenced pursuant to that statutory scheme. It is noteworthy that 2C:43-3 provides that the court may order restitution by an adult offender to a victim; however, the statute provides that:

The term "victim" shall mean a person who suffers a personal physical or psychological injury or death or incurs loss of or injury to personal or real property as a result of a crime committed against that person, or in the case of a homicide, the nearest relative of the victim.

[N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3e.]

A literal reading of this statute indicates that the parent would not be considered a victim under these circumstances and therefore would not be eligible for reimbursement of out of pocket expenses for her own psychotherapy.

The Disposition of juvenile delinquency cases is governed by the broader provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43, which provides that the court may:

Order the juvenile to make restitution to a person or entity who has suffered loss resulting from personal injuries or damage to property as a result of the offense for which ...


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