Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Ocean
STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF T.D., a Juvenile.
APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION August 12, 2019
Madeline Buczynski, Assistant Prosecutor, and Iva Krasteva,
Assistant Prosecutor, for State of New Jersey, (Bradley D.
Billhimer, Ocean County Prosecutor, attorney).
Kelsey O'Donnell, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, for
T.D. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney).
matter comes before the court as a case review
post-disposition, following the recommendation of the Ocean
County Probation Division that the matter be returned to
court for Juvenile T.D.'s failure to complete thirty (30)
hours of community service previously ordered by the court.
For the reasons set forth below, this court hereby vacates
all previously ordered community service hours.
April 26, 2018, T.D., then a seventeen-year-old juvenile,
entered an admission before this court to one count of
shoplifting, pursuant to N.J.S.A 2C:20-11(b)(1), a disorderly
persons offense if committed by an adult, and one count of
obstructing the administration of law, pursuant to N.J.S.A.
2C:29-1(a), a fourth degree offense if committed by an adult.
In exchange for T.D.'s admission, the State agreed to
dismiss the remaining charges of aggravated assault,
disorderly conduct and rioting under FJ-15-0569-18. The
parties further agreed that T.D.'s disposition be
deferred for twelve months, consistent with N.J.S.A.
2A:4A-43(b)(1) (hereinafter referred to as the "deferred
parties also jointly agreed that the deferred disposition be
conditioned upon T.D.'s successful completion of thirty
hours of community service during the pendency of the
deferred disposition. Importantly, at the outset of the
hearing, when outlining the proposed plea agreement, the
assistant prosecutor specifically indicated that
"mandatory community service [was]
required" under the shoplifting statute, and counsel for
the plea colloquy with T.D., this court entered an order
which placed T.D. on the twelve-month deferred disposition to
run concurrent on both charges, and indicated that compliance
with conditions of the order would result in the matter being
dismissed on April 25, 2019, assuming the conditions were
met. The court specifically ordered T.D. to complete thirty
hours of community service as a condition of her deferred
disposition. Return for Disposition
Ocean County Probation Division filed a "Return for
Disposition" form on November 15, 2018. The Return for
Disposition revealed that probation had attempted to connect
T.D. with multiple sites where T.D. would be able to complete
the required community service hours. In particular, on May
1, 2018, probation first placed T.D. at a church in
Manahawkin, New Jersey, to perform the required community
service hours. T.D., however, failed to complete any
community service hours at that site, whereupon she was
removed from that site on May 21, 2018, and then placed at
another site in Toms River, New Jersey. T.D. failed to
complete any community service hours at that second site, and
to date has not completed any community service hours.
receiving the Return for Disposition, this court scheduled a
Continuance Review for December 12, 2018, at which time T.D.
failed to appear. The court relisted the matter and attempted
to provide the juvenile notice of the new court date of
January 9, 2019. On that date, however, the juvenile failed
to appear and the assistant prosecutor was ordered to
investigate a proper address for T.D. The matter was relisted
for February 6, 2019. On February 6, 2019, T.D. again failed
to appear. The assistant prosecutor represented that the
Ocean County Prosecutor's Office had reached out to
T.D.'s school, post office and Division of Child
Protection and Permanency, and was advised that T.D. and her
mother had moved and had not provided any forwarding address.
The court declined the State's request for a bench
warrant at that time, and ordered both the State and
probation to continue to investigate a proper address for
T.D. The matter again was relisted.
finally appeared in court with her mother on March 7, 2019,
when the following exchange took place:
PROSECUTOR: [T.D.] has not completed any of the required
mandatory community service . . . . Therefore, what Ms.
O'Donnell and I have discussed is an adjournment to give
the juvenile a compliance period where essentially she would
need to do her community service as it wouldn't just be
an adjudication, it would have to be some probationary period
to resolve this matter because of the mandatory outstanding
THE COURT: [To T.D.] So I'm so happy to see you here,
because the last thing the court wanted to do was issue a
bench warrant for you to come back here. We had a tough time
finding you, but we finally found you. I am so happy that you
are here today. I don't know if there is going to be a
need for another court appearance, if there is, it is really
important, it is your obligation to inform Ms. O'Donnell
where you are. And if you don't appear again, based on
your history of nonappearance, I will have to issue a bench
warrant. . . . I don't want to do that, but when there is
a history of nonappearance, it is up to the juvenile,
especially when you have been placed on a deferred
disposition, to keep everyone up to date as to where you are.
I say that not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of
your mother . . . . It is really important that you keep in
touch with Ms. O'Donnell.
MS. O'DONNELL (T.D.'s ATTORNEY): There is still time
for her to complete those hours, given the fact that this
deferred disposition does not currently terminate until the
end of April . . . so there is time and she has expressed a
willingness to work with probation to get those community
service hours completed. . . . I do want to place on the
record, Your Honor, and I don't know the exact nature and
circumstances of when this all occurred, but there is some
explanation, I believe, to [T.D.'s] lack of appearance as
the family is experiencing homelessness at this time. I think
that's important to note because I myself will represent
that I will keep in contact with [T.D.] and [her mother]. I
do have good working phone numbers for them, I do not have a
permanent address though, at this time. . . . Despite the
fact the family is experiencing difficulties, [T.D.] has
expressed a willingness to complete those community service
hours. . . . I don't have any other obviously viable
alternative at this point to offer to the court because they
are mandatory hours of community service . . . so,
at least we are working toward some sort of solution to make
sure that it can be addressed in the meanwhile.
THE COURT: [To T.D.] We want to work with you, but the
problem with the shoplifting statute is it's mandatory.
It's in the statute that I have to impose them. If this
were something, based on what you're going through, if I
could basically ignore that, I would do it, because I
don't think it's consistent with the rehabilitative
goals [of the Juvenile Code]. . . . I don't think anybody