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State in Interest of M.C.

August 4, 1997

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, IN THE INTEREST OF M.C., JUVENILE-APPELLANT.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division-Family Part, Passaic County.

Approved for Publication August 4, 1997.

Before Judges Long, Skillman and A.a. Rodriguez. The opinion of the court was delivered by Rodrguez, A.a., J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rodriguez

The opinion of the court was delivered by

RODRGUEZ, A.A., J.A.D.

M.C., then sixteen-years old, was arrested and charged with juvenile delinquency for conduct that, if committed by an adult, would have constituted possession of a shotgun without first obtaining a firearms purchaser identification card, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5c. The Judge sustained the complaint, and imposed a custodial term of one-year. The sentence was suspended upon a condition that M.C. participate in the Total Life Program. The contentions on appeal are that the adjudication of delinquency must be reversed because the Legislature intended that juveniles who possess firearms be prosecuted exclusively pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1b and that the juvenile is not subject to incarceration because the offense is, by definition, limited to juveniles. We conclude that the Legislature, in enacting N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1b, intended that persons under the age of eighteen who possess firearms be prosecuted under either N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1b or N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5c. We further conclude that the Legislature intended that persons prosecuted pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1b be subject to incarceration. Therefore, we affirm.

The facts presented by the State can be summarized as follows. An off-duty Paterson police officer saw M.C., accompanied by another young man, carrying a brown-leather gun case while walking on a public street. The officer followed the pair for approximately two blocks and then pulled up alongside M.C. Upon seeing the officer, M.C. threw the gun case down and ran. The officer retrieved the case, pursued M.C., and apprehended him after a struggle. The gun case contained a Remington 12-gauge shotgun. M.C. gave a statement indicating that he met another young man who told him that he had a shotgun. The pair agreed "to sell it to a crackhead." M.C. acknowledged that he carried the shotgun because his friend said it was too heavy.

M.C. contends that the State could only prosecute him for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1, which provides:

a. No person under the age of 18 years shall purchase, barter or otherwise acquire a firearm.

b. No person under the age of 18 years shall possess, carry, fire or use a firearm except under [certain exceptions not applicable here].

c. Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, any person under the age of 18 years who violates any provision of this section shall be adJudged delinquent.

[N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1.]

M.C. also argues that the Legislature "created a nonincarceration offense for juveniles who would otherwise be subject to a third degree juvenile sentence."

Delinquency is the commission of an act by a juvenile, which if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime, a disorderly persons offense, or a petty disorderly persons offense. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-23a, b. Delinquency also encompasses the violation of any other penal statute, ordinance, or regulation. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-23c. If a juvenile is adJudged delinquent, the court can impose incarceration as one of the appropriate Dispositions. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43b; In re A.R., 246 N.J. Super. 241, 244 ...


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