The Juvenile Section of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of juvenile delinquency cases heard in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of Superior Court. Cases processed in Bergen County indicate that juvenile offenders are increasingly younger than in previous years. Children under the age of 12 and those who are 12, 13, and 14, have been taken into custody for arsons, assaults and sexual assaults. Regardless of the reasons for their delinquency, younger offenders pose a unique challenge to the courts. The Juvenile Unit seeks to promote accountability for the juvenile’s actions, while protecting the community and seeking rehabilitation services to assist the juvenile in becoming a productive member of society.
Juveniles charged with serious offenses, or who are not expected to appear voluntarily for court, may be detained at a juvenile detention center pending court action. Juveniles are not eligible for release on bail.
The Juvenile Intake Unit, an arm of the courts, is responsible for screening all juvenile delinquency complaints that are filed. Intake also recommends whether a complaint is diverted by sending it to the local juvenile conference committee or intake service conferences or referred for court action. The juvenile, along with a parent or guardian, is required to appear to answer the charges.
The Juvenile Unit consists of four assistant prosecutors, one investigator and one paralegal. One of the assistant prosecutors is designated as the section chief, and another serves as assistant section chief. In addition to supervising the administrative functions in the section, the section chief handles more serious cases including high-profile cases and those designated for waiver to adult court. The Unit chief also serves as legal advisor for all juvenile officers in the municipal police departments throughout Bergen County. The Juvenile Unit also works closely with the Prosecutor’s Office Victim-Witness Assistance Unit to see that victims are dealt with fairly and compassionately during their court involvement.
The Juvenile Unit’s investigative staff consists of one investigator who reports to the lieutenant in charge of the Trial and Grand Jury sections. The investigator performs traditional functions including interviewing witnesses and sending out subpoenas. Because the Juvenile Unit has no central record room, the investigator and paralegal maintain the section’s files and statistical information.