The purpose of the Juvenile Unit is to prosecute juveniles charged with acts of delinquency, provide legal assistance to police seeking to apprehend and charge those delinquents, and to provide aid and comfort to the victims of juvenile delinquency. The Assistant Prosecutor and Detective assigned to this section provide legal advice and guidance to officers on possible charges, stationhouse adjustments, or whether to lodge juveniles in detention. The Assistant Prosecutor consults with schools and police departments on privacy and other issues involving the interests of juveniles. The Assistant Prosecutor and Detective also alert law enforcement to evolving case law and guidelines applicable to juveniles. The Assistant Prosecutor makes recommendations for dispositions of cases, which can range from community-based diversionary programs such as the Law Enforcement Adolescent Program (L.E.A.P.), deferred disposition or probation, juvenile detention, or trial as an adult. When appropriate, punishment is accompanied by an obligation to attend treatment programs and counseling intended to rehabilitate the juvenile.
This unit is responsible for disposing of all juvenile complaints. Prior to the docketing of cases in court, the Assistant Prosecutor reviews all charges and reports filed in the county, contacting officers as necessary to provide guidance. With the support of the Detective and the Victim-Witness Advocate (link), the Assistant Prosecutor appears at every juvenile hearing, with the team's goal of helping craft dispositions appropriate to the well-being of young offenders and to the safety of the community.
To exchange the latest ideas and information with juvenile officers, providers of services for juveniles, and others concerned with juveniles' welfare, the Juvenile Unit Assistant Prosecutor meets monthly with the Hunterdon County Juvenile Officers' Association, and with the Hunterdon County Youth Services Commission. The Juvenile Unit Assistant Prosecutor and Detective present topics to schools on issues ranging from substance abuse to bullying and cyber-harassment.
The Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office, in partnership with Hunterdon Prevention Resources (link), uses L.E.A.P. to connect at-risk juveniles identified by police with needed mental health, substance abuse, and other services for early interventions.