Section Chief: Assistant Prosecutor Erin Deitz
Unit Commander: Sergeant Chris Sarson
The Juvenile Unit handles offenses committed by persons who have not yet reached their 18th birthday as of the date of the commission of the charged offense. Most of the unit’s cases consist of charges that have been filed by one of the local municipal police departments or by another unit of the Prosecutor’s Office, including but not limited to Major Crimes, Child Abuse, Narcotics and Homicide.
The primary responsibilities of the unit include screening, investigating and prosecuting juvenile cases. The secondary responsibilities include responding to requests for assistance from local municipal police departments, providing legal advice, instruction and training to all members of law enforcement who conduct business in the county and educating the public on the juvenile justice system.
In 2011, the Juvenile Unit was tasked with becoming more proactive and this objective continued through 2012. For a number of years, the unit served as the juvenile equivalent of a Grand Jury Unit and Tral Team hybrid, primarily setting up and prosecuting cases. The unit continues to fulfill these core functions but has transitioned into the model established by the Office’s Major Crimes Unit. The unit is now actively partnering with other investigative units within the Office and local law enforcement agencies to offer assistance and conduct joint investigations. Juvenile Unit staff are also working hand-in-hand with the Intelligence Services Unit to gather, share and disseminate information that is necessary to combat the increasing violent juvenile gang crimes.
The unit not only updated the county-wide processing of juvenile bench warrants, but also created and implemented a county-wide juvenile bench warrant task force made up of representatives of all law enforcement agencies doing business in Camden County in an effort to take the most violent juvenile offenders off the streets.
In 2012, the Juvenile Unit was tasked with creating and implementing a county-wide response to low level and entry level offenses, as well as non-criminal precursors to delinquent behavior, such as curfew violations, truancy and running away. Law enforcement officers are too frequently placed in the position of charging and prosecuting juveniles for behavior that might have been prevented had services been put in place at the first sign of trouble. In response to this epidemic, the unit created an enhanced county-wide Stationhouse Adjustment program. This unit entered into a partnership with the Center Family Services (CFS), which is the FCIU contracting agency for Camden County. Through this partnership CFS has agreed to accept direct referrals from law enforcement as a condition of Stationhouse Adjustments. Center for Family Services responds to the family of the offender within 24 hours of receiving the referral and offers free evaluations, free services and referrals for other free services as needed for the entire family, not just the juvenile. By front loading the services the initiative may be able to prevent the juvenile from escalating behavior and prevent the juvenile from ever entering the formal juvenile court system. Since it’s inception, the Enhanced Stationhouse Adjustment program has expanded to accept direct referrals as part of curbside warnings, as well as at the time of charge. By doing so at the time of charge the juvenile and the family receive services immediately, rather than having to wait the 6 to 8 weeks it takes to get the case into court for the court to order the services. Center for Family Services is now also accepting direct referrals from non-law enforcement individuals. Now, all school personnel and all persons familiar with any juvenile can make a direct referral for immediate free services for the juvenile and the family. This is a therapeutic and medically based response to juvenile crime and amounts to community policing at its best.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
• Review cases for pretrial conference, detention hearings, probable cause hearings, disposition and trial
• Appear in court for all juvenile proceedings
• Defend against Motions to Suppress and Motions to Reveal Surveillance Locations
• Revise original charges to place each case in the proper legal framework for court proceedings, including trial
• Negotiate the resolution of cases
• Handle juvenile appeals
• Provide legal advise, instruction and training to law enforcement
• Prepare and present motions, including motions for waiver to the adult court
• Educate the public and victims of crime on the juvenile justice system and related issues
• Teach at the county police academy
• The Section Chief also conducts training sessions for police and fire departments and school personnel on juvenile issues, attends and participates in various court and community organization meetings and committees relevant to juvenile issues and is on call 24 hours per day.
• Screen cases to make the determination whether the case should be placed on the formal list or diverted to the informal list
• Complete investigative tasks necessary to prepare a case for full prosecution
• Obtain all reports, discovery and evidence for court proceedings
• Locate witnesses
• Interview witnesses and take recorded statements
• Apprehend fugitives
• Assist assistant prosecutors in court as necessary
• Apprehend juvenile fugitives, giving special attention to escapees, parole violators, probation violators and other serious offenders who pose a risk to persons or property in the community
• Assist with Megan’s Law notifications
• Teach at the county police academy
• Guest lecture to the public and in schools on issues ranging from anti-bullying to internet safety for children/sexting
• Instruct members of law enforcement on juvenile procedures and updates
• Work side-by-side with local law enforcement to investigate and deter offenses, giving special attention to school threats and violent offenses
• Serve as instructors at the Camden County Police Academy; and
• The Unit Commander is on call 24 hours per day.
• Prepare and process legal documents such as complaints, motions, subpoenas and orders (this requires knowledge of the legal system and an understanding of various legal terms and definitions)
• Open, maintain and close out all case files
• Compile the caseloads for pre-trial court dates and aid assistant prosecutors in locating and managing files
• Oversee the tracking of all files and ensure that the files are delivered to and processed by the appropriate personnel after each court appearance
• Prepare subpoenas, identify the current assignments of police witnesses and mail subpoenas accordingly to ensure effective service
• Transcribe recorded statements
• Be prepared to transcribe dictation of a complex legal nature
• Contact victims, witnesses, police officers and attorneys as needed
• Type all forms of correspondence and draft various letters and orders
• Process all forfeitures
• Manage all restitution files pending post dispositional restitution orders from the court
• Review all files for mandatory school notifications pursuant to 2A:4A-60 and 2C:43-5.1
• Contact court staff regarding court dates, postponements, filings, requests for information and case status
• Answer and direct all phone calls
• Manage the closed file storage system
• Answer questions from the public, victims, public defenders and attorneys
• Photocopy voluminous discovery
• Provide support to assistant prosecutors, investigators and the victim witness counselor in all aspects of their respective job requirements.
The Section Chief and Unit Commander are on call 24 hours per day every day, including weekends and holidays. As such, local law enforcement has a direct line to immediate assistance with all investigations and legal issues that may arise in the context of dealing with juveniles.