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In re D.A.

May 16, 2006

IN THE INTEREST OF D.A., JUVENILE-APPELLANT.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division-Family Part, Sussex County, Docket No. FJ-19-307-04.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cuff, P.J.A.D.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Submitted: March 13, 2006

Before Judges Cuff, Lintner and Holston, Jr.

D.A., a juvenile, entered a guilty plea to acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute endangering the welfare of a child. In accordance with the plea agreement, D.A. was sentenced to a three-year period of probation with credit for 102 days spent in juvenile detention. Several conditions of probation were also imposed, including no contact with the victim, and no unsupervised contact with children ten years of age or younger. D.A. was also required to register under Megan's Law, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2 to -5. As an additional and unnegotiated condition of probation, D.A. is required to advise the parents of any girl he dates of the terms of the disposition of the charge involving his half-sister, including his Megan's Law status.

It is this additional and unnegotiated condition of probation that is the focus of this appeal. The juvenile contends that this condition circumvents the Megan's Law tier classification system and countermands the non-disclosure provisions of the Code of Juvenile Justice (Juvenile Code). The State responds that the special condition is consistent with the public safety, accountability, rehabilitative and limited disclosure provisions of the Juvenile Code and does not circumvent Megan's Law. We affirm.

D.A. entered a guilty plea to endangering the welfare of his six-year-old half-sister on February 5, 2004. According to the reconstructed record of the plea, the judge confirmed that the Confidential Juvenile Plea Form contained all of the terms of the plea agreement. The State and D.A. agree that the form did not contain the special condition at issue in this appeal. The judge also did not mention it during the proceeding.*fn1 The judge reviewed with D.A. his constitutional rights. Once assured that D.A. knowingly and voluntarily waived these rights, the judge obtained a factual basis in support of the guilty plea.

The dispositional hearing occurred on February 26, 2004. At some time before the commencement of the hearing, defense counsel learned that the judge contemplated requiring the juvenile to inform the parents of any girl he dated about his Megan's Law offender status. During the hearing, defense counsel argued that there was nothing in the investigation to support that he was a danger to any teenage girl. The judge acknowledged that the juvenile's tier status would likely be low. Nevertheless, the judge felt that the spirit of Megan's Law required notice of his status to the parents of any girl that he dated in order to address "the concerns of the safety and welfare of others." He also cited D.A.'s emotional turmoil and confusion regarding his emerging sexual development and the impact of the conduct of the adult who influenced D.A.'s actions. The judge acknowledged that D.A. would not have to disclose his status to the parents of his girlfriend if D.A. ceased his dating relationship with her. The judge encouraged the juvenile to discuss this condition with his therapist because he would be on probation for three years and he anticipated that the need for disclosure would arise again.

On appeal, D.A. argues that the special condition of probation requiring notification by the juvenile to the parents of any girl that he dates of his status is contrary to the Megan's Law tier classification and notification system and procedures and is also contrary to the non-disclosure provisions of the Juvenile Code. The State responds that the special condition is consistent with the purpose and limited disclosure provisions of the Juvenile Code. It also contends that the condition is not contrary to the notice provisions of Megan's Law.

In fashioning a disposition for a juvenile adjudicated delinquent, the court is required to weigh several factors including the nature and circumstances of the offense and the impact of the offense on the community. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43a(1), (10). The Legislature has set forth a broad array of dispositions for a juvenile adjudicated delinquent, including various non-custodial measures. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43b. The judge is specifically authorized to impose any condition reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the juvenile. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-43b(18).

The judge's discretion in fashioning an appropriate disposition is, of course, informed by the express purposes of the Juvenile Code. Those purposes include the preservation of the family, N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-21a; removal of certain statutory consequences of criminal behavior from children who commit delinquent acts and the substitution of a range of sanctions "designed to promote accountability and protect the public," N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-21b; and "balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed, fostering interaction and dialogue between the offender, victim and community and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community." N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-21f.

The juvenile argues that the disposition fashioned by the family court judge violates the non-disclosure provisions of the Juvenile Code. We think this argument ...


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