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The Court Changes the Standard When Waiving a Juvenile to Adult Criminal Court

State in the Interest of V.A., T.H., C.T., and M.R., ? N.J. ?, 2012 N.J. LEXIS 899 (September 12, 2012) – Appellate Division judgment reversed, case remanded for further proceedings.  

“The abuse of discretion standard, rather than the patent and gross abuse of discretion standard, governs judicial review of a prosecutor’s decision to waive a juvenile aged sixteen and over charged with an enumerated offense under N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26 into adult criminal court….  

In light of the enhanced punishment looming as a result of the serious decision to waive a juvenile from family to adult court, and to advance the legislative direction to promote uniformity, we find that the abuse of discretion standard … is more appropriate [than patent and gross abuse of discretion used to review PTI decisions].   

[R]eview for abuse of discretion involves a limited but nonetheless substantive review to ensure that the prosecutor’s individualized decision about the juvenile before the court, as set forth in the statement of reasons, is not arbitrary or abusive of the considerable discretion allowed to the prosecutor by statute. Cursory or conclusory statements as justification for waiver will not suffice to allow the court to perform its review under the abuse of discretion standard because such statements provide no meaningful explanation of the prosecutor’s reasoning. 

Applying that standard, we further hold that, in the instant matter, the prosecutor’s explanation in the Statements of Reasons was, in certain respects, lacking in detail.”  (Lon C. Taylor, A.D.P.D., for C.T.; Patrick C. O’Hara, Designated Counsel, for V.A.; William M. Fetky, Designated Counsel, for M.R.; Laura A. Cohen for amicus curiae ACDL-NJ)

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