On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FJ-12-1279-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges A. A. RodrIguez and C. L. Miniman.
M.R. appeals from the March 5, 2010 dispositional order that adjudicated him a juvenile offender for conduct, which if committed by an adult, would constitute fourth degree unlawful possession of a firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1b. The judge imposed a one-year probationary term, with a special condition of sixty days in custody. The custodial term was suspended. We reverse the dispositional order.
At the time of the offense, M.R. was fourteen years old and resided with his mother and maternal grandparents. M.R. did not own a car at that time. However, he borrowed his grandfather's car that day.
At the dispositional hearing, two witnesses testified for the State, Milltown Patrolmen Christopher Johnson and James Miodvszewski. Johnson testified that at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27, 2009, a rainy day, Johnson was sent to the intersection of South Main Street and Lakewood Avenue. As Johnson reached the corner, he saw a car, later determined to be M.R.'s grandfather's vehicle, with one flat tire and a "doughnut" spare tire, coming from a side street. M.R. was driving and his passenger, C.R., was trying to stop traffic in order to allow the vehicle to enter onto Main Street. Johnson activated his overhead lights, exited his patrol car, and told M.R. to pull to the side of the road. Johnson knew both M.R. and C.R. Johnson pulled his patrol car directly behind the stopped car. He asked M.R. what happened. M.R. replied that he had been in an accident. Johnson requested M.R.'s credentials. M.R. presented his driver's license only. He said that the registration and insurance card were "in the back of the car."
By this time, Miodvszewski and other officers had arrived. Miodvszewski testified that, while he was standing by the passenger's window, he heard M.R. say "please don't tell me I put the f-g registration under the platform. He's going to see the bullets." Miodvszewski told Johnson. Johnson decided to find the registration and insurance card. First, Johnson asked M.R. whether there were bullets in the car. C.R. said that there were. Then Johnson asked C.R. whether there was a gun in the car. C.R. said that he did not know.
Johnson opened the trunk, which contained two compartments. One was a tray. Underneath the tray were the registration, insurance card, and about 600 rounds of ammunition, and a gun. The gun was in a soft bag with six more bullets.
The sole witness for the defense was M.R. He testified that he was driving his grandfather's car to take his friend C.R. home. The car slid and hit a curb. Two tires deflated.
M.R. got a spare "donut" tire and lug nut wrench from the trunk, which is set up so that the "floor" can be lifted and divided into two sections. On the driver's side compartment was a spare tire and a wrench.
According to M.R., the previous Sunday he had gone target shooting with his grandfather at the Shore Shot Pistol Range in Lakewood. When they returned home after shooting, M.R. took a three-foot leather cube box, which held the gun, out of the car and put it in the basement. He was unaware that there were bullets in the trunk of the car. The bullets were not with the gun.
M.R. did not see the gun again until the police officer held it up for him to see at the scene. In fact, he had never seen the gun case that was moved into evidence at the hearing. That case, which was a telescope case, had never been used to hold the gun. M.R. admitted seeing the bullets in one of the trunk compartments ...