The Family Division of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of juvenile delinquency cases. The prosecution of juvenile delinquency cases is handled by the Family Court. Juvenile delinquency is defined as an act which is committed by an individual under the age of 18 that would be a crime or a disorderly persons offense if committed by an adult.
In addition to juvenile delinquency cases, the Family Division prosecutes adult criminal defendants who violate domestic violence restraining orders. The Division also handles weapons forfeiture hearings, willful non support matters and indictable interference with custody cases.
The Family Division is comprised of four assistant prosecutors one of whom serves as the Unit Director, detectives, two paralegal specialists and support staff.
In the year 2000, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office became the largest county in the State to assume the charging function for all juvenile delinquency complaints arising within the county. Prior to 2000, every municipal police department filed delinquency charges directly with the Family Court. Unlike the adult criminal system which relies upon a Grand Jury and a Prosecutor to determine the adequacy of the potential criminal charges, the juvenile delinquency process has no such equivalent. The central charging process creates parity and consistency within the 53 separate municipalities within the County to ensure that all similarly situated juvenile offenders are treated fairly.
While many delinquency cases are retained by the Office for formal prosecution, there are a significant number of cases which are screened to court supervised diversionary programs to give young, first time offenders the opportunity to demonstrate their amenability to rehabilitation without the need for a formal court appearance. The Family Division screens each file to ensure that repetitive or serious acts of delinquency are matters that proceed to the formal court calendar. Of the formally prosecuted cases, the crimes range from petty offenses such as trespass, through the more serious crimes, up to and including sexual assault, robbery, and murder. On average, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has opened up more than 1500 new criminal cases involving juvenile offenders.
The Family Division is also statutorily charged with the responsibility of prosecuting adult criminal defendants who violate domestic violence restraining orders. More than 350 cases, involving contempt of domestic violence restraining orders and weapons forfeiture matters, are screened each year. The goal of domestic violence prosecutions is to hold the abuser accountable, while at the same time protecting the interests of the victim. The unit is responsible for screening all indictable restraining order violations to determine whether or not they are appropriate for presentation to the Grand Jury, or in the alternative, if they are best venued for prosecution in the Family Court. Once this decision is made, these cases are vigorously pursued in both venues, often over the objections of the victim. This is sometimes necessary to properly ensure the safety of the victim from the abuser.