The Juvenile Unit is currently supervised by Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jason Harding. The Juvenile Justice System is a separate and distinct branch of the criminal justice system. The Juvenile Unit of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office is charged with prosecuting juvenile delinquency cases in the Family Court. Juvenile delinquency is defined as an act that is committed by a person under the age of 18 that would be a crime or a disorderly persons offense if committed by an adult.
Juveniles who commit criminal offenses are charged with "juvenile delinquency" by local police. The juvenile delinquency complaints are then sent to the Family Court and the Prosecutor’s Office. Minor, first-time offenders are oftentimes diverted from formal hearings in court, but the Prosecutor’s Juvenile Unit screens each complaint in order to ensure that serious acts of delinquency or repetitive acts of delinquency are not diverted. Members of the Juvenile Unit prosecute those complaints which are referred on to the Family Court judges by the presentation of physical evidence and witnesses, much like adult criminal proceedings.
The Juvenile Unit processes cases through "case ownership", whereby a team of one assistant prosecutor and one investigator is responsible for the case from receipt through disposition. This system ensures that cases receive faster and more thorough attention, accountability attaches and victims and witnesses are not subjected to repetitious interviews with different personnel.
A Victim Witness advocate is assigned to the Unit to assist victims of juvenile crimes and safeguard the rights of victims in juvenile cases. One of his responsibilities is to notify victims of the status and disposition of their cases. A brochure, "A Victim’s Guide to the Juvenile Justice System", is available in English and Spanish.
Victims’ Rights in Juvenile Cases
Information Regarding the Case. A victim or a member of the victim’s immediate family is entitled to receive information regarding the identity of the juvenile, the offense, diversion, adjudication and disposition.
HIV/AIDS Testing. A victim of sexual assault, or any case involving the possible transmission of bodily fluids, may request that a juvenile who is charged or adjudicated delinquent of the offense be tested for HIV/AIDS.
Right to Recommendations. A victim has the right to make recommendations about the disposition of the complaint, including objecting to diversion.
Right to Make a Statement. A victim has the right to make an in-person statement to the judge before disposition.
Victims of Crime Compensation Board
A victim of a juvenile delinquency offense may file an application with the Victims of Crime Compensation Board to seek compensation for losses due to injuries or death caused by crime. In some limited circumstances, a victim may also file for compensation in the absence of personal injury.