On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 404 N.J. Super. 69 (2008).
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
On February 19, 2004, the Lower Township Police Department contacted the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office with information that T.B. accused defendant P.M.P. of sexual assault. T.B. was born in April 1995, and P.M.P., who was twenty years old at the time of his arrest, was born in September 1987. T.B. claimed that the sexual assaults occurred one summer when she was either six or seven years old. Thus, P.M.P. would have been either thirteen or fourteen years old at the time of the assaults.
Detective Hand of the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office interviewed T.B. to confirm the veracity of the allegations made. She also called P.M.P. and pretended to be T.B. in a conversation. According to Detective Hand, P.M.P. believed he was talking on the phone to T.B. and apologized for his conduct. Following that conversation, the detective prepared a juvenile delinquency complaint against the twenty-year-old P.M.P., alleging "an act of sexual conduct with T.B., for the purpose of sexually arousing or sexually gratifying himself or to humiliate or degrade T.B., when T.B. was less than thirteen years old, defendant being at least four years older than T.B., specifically by fondling the victim's genital[s] with his hand." After signing the complaint, the detective and an assistant prosecutor appeared before a Family Part judge to request an arrest warrant. The judge issued the warrant and suggested the State return with P.M.P. at nine o'clock the next morning for a detention hearing.
The following day, February 20, 2004, the police arrested P.M.P., transported him to the Prosecutor's Office, read him his Miranda rights and, after he waived those rights, obtained a statement from P.M.P. in which he admitted to having sex with T.B. Later that morning, the police presented T.B. to the trial judge for the detention hearing and the judge ordered P.M.P. detained.
P.M.P. eventually filed a motion to suppress his February 20, 2004 statement. The trial judge granted the motion, finding that the prosecutor's filing of a juvenile delinquency complaint was the functional equivalent of an indictment, and therefore, P.M.P.'s right to counsel attached when the complaint was filed. The trial judge referred to State v. Sanchez, which held that after indictment, a defendant may not waive the right to counsel without approval of counsel. The judge concluded that the interrogation of P.M.P. without the presence of counsel violated his Sixth Amendment Right to counsel.
The Appellate Division granted the State's motion for leave to appeal and reversed the decision of the trial court, holding that the fundamental difference between the procedures and goals of the juvenile justice system and the criminal court prohibit equating a juvenile complaint with an indictment.
The Supreme Court granted P.M.P.'s motion for leave to appeal.
HELD: The filing of the complaint and the obtaining of a judicially approved arrest warrant by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office was a critical stage in the proceedings, and pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-39b(1), P.M.P. had the right to counsel and could not waive that right except in the presence of and after consultation with his attorney counsel. Therefore, the trial court properly granted P.M.P.'s motion to suppress his statement.
1. The New Jersey Legislature grants to juveniles all defenses available to an adult charged with a crime, offense or violation. Under federal law, the right to counsel attaches at the initiation of an adversarial judicial criminal proceeding against a defendant, which includes proceedings that are initiated through formal charge, preliminary hearing, information, indictment, or arraignment. In Sanchez, the Court held that after indictment, the State should not initiate conversation with a defendant without the consent of defense counsel. The Court noted that the indictment transforms the relationship between the State and defendant because the State has now represented that it has enough to establish a prima facie case and any questioning thereafter is just to buttress that case. Miranda warnings are insufficient to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges against him, the dangers of self-representation, or the steps an attorney might take to protect his interests. The U.S. Supreme Court in In re Gault held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that the juvenile and parents be notified of the right to counsel. (pp. 8-14)
2. Following Gault, the Legislature adopted the Code of Juvenile Justice. Under the Code, a juvenile has the right to be represented by counsel at every critical stage of the proceedings. In addition, under N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-39b(1), a juvenile, during a delinquency proceeding, cannot waive any rights except in the presence of and after consultation with counsel and unless the parent has been afforded time to consult with the juvenile and the juvenile's counsel regarding that decision. A juvenile does not have the right to an indictment; therefore, the filing of the complaint by the Prosecutor's Office takes on added significance because, at that point, the prosecutor's has determined that it has a prima facie case, changing the prosecutor's from investigative to accusatory. Here, the significant level of involvement by the Prosecutor's Office and the judicially approved arrest warrant satisfied the "critical stage in the proceeding" necessary to trigger P.M.P.'s statutory right to counsel. (Pp. 14-16)
3. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-39 provides essentially the same safeguards to juveniles at every critical stage of the proceedings that Sanchez provides for adults following indictment. Thus, in the absence of counsel, P.M.P. could not waive his Miranda rights. Thus, when the Prosecutor's Office initiated a juvenile complaint and obtains a judicially approved arrest warrant, a critical stage in the proceeding has been reached, implicating the juvenile's statutory right to counsel. The State's questioning of P.M.P. and the receipt of his statement in the absence of counsel at a critical stage in the proceedings violated his statutory right to have counsel present before a valid waiver could be obtained. Consequently, the trial judge properly granted P.M.P.'s motion to suppress his statement. (Pp. 16-17)
4. Because of the conclusion reached today, the Court need not address P.M.P.'s claim that the Prosecutor's Office circumvented the trial judge's order to produce the juvenile and did so in order to obtain a confession that it otherwise would have been prevented from obtaining. Nonetheless, if the Court were to find it necessary to reach this issue in order to resolve this matter, it would reject P.M.P.'s requested relief. (P. 17)
Judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED and the matter is REMANDED for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
JUSTICE RIVERA-SOTO, DISSENTING, in which JUSTICE HOENS joins, would affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Lihotz's opinion. The purposes of the juvenile justice system stand in stark contrast to those of the criminal justice system. Those fundamental differences make the importation of concepts unique to one into the other an ill-fitting enterprise. Also, tethering together whether someone charged in a juvenile delinquency complaint may waive the presence of counsel before giving an otherwise perfectly admissible statement to the happenstance of which law enforcement agency filed the complaint is simply far too arbitrary for reasoned application and becomes a toothless tiger, a meaningless requirement that, in practice, is far too easily sidestepped. Finally, granting this adult defendant a newly found protection to which he otherwise would not be entitled solely because he committed his offense while still a juvenile defies basic common sense.
CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, and ALBIN join in JUSTICE WALLACE'S opinion. JUSTICE RIVERA-SOTO filed a separate dissenting opinion in which JUSTICE HOENS joins.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wallace, Jr.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
In this case, a detective in the Prosecutor's Office prepared a juvenile delinquency complaint against a twenty-year-old defendant for unlawful conduct he allegedly committed as a teenager. After signing the complaint, the detective and an assistant prosecutor appeared before a Family Part judge to request an arrest warrant. The judge issued the warrant and suggested that the State return with defendant at nine o'clock the next morning for a detention hearing. The following day, the police arrested defendant, transported him to the Prosecutor's Office, read him his Miranda*fn1 rights, and obtained a statement from defendant in which he admitted to wrongdoing. Later that morning, the police presented defendant to the trial judge for the detention hearing.
Defendant eventually filed a motion to suppress his statement. The trial judge granted his motion, finding that the prosecutor's filing of a juvenile delinquency complaint was the functional equivalent of an indictment, and therefore, defendant's right to counsel attached when the complaint was filed. The judge held that the interrogation of defendant without the presence of counsel violated defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The Appellate Division granted the State's motion for leave to appeal and reversed. We granted defendant's motion for leave to appeal and now reverse. We hold that the filing of the complaint and obtaining of a judicially approved arrest warrant by the Prosecutor's Office was a critical stage in the ...