“In short, the Family Division has continuing jurisdiction over delinquent juveniles and can change or modify an order of disposition at any time”
Matter of Request to Modify Prison Sentences,
242 N.J. 357, 394 (2020)
Post-Disposition, Expungement, and Appeals
As noted on the Disposition tab, the family court will—actually, must—“retain jurisdiction over any case in which it has entered a disposition . . . for the duration of that disposition.” See N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-45(a); R. 5:24-5(a). During this time the court may “substitute any disposition otherwise available . . . other than incarceration.” N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-45(a).
This power includes substitution of more punitive dispositions short of incarceration “if after hearing, and notice to the prosecuting attorney, [the court] finds violation of the conditions of the order of disposition.” N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-45(b). Accordingly, the law presents a double-edged sword that may advantage juveniles performing well on dispositions originally ordered or disadvantage them if they are not: A Court Rule provides that Juveniles performing well may ask the court to end their disposition early or otherwise modify it. See R. 5:24-6.
Performing well on a disposition not only opens the door to ending it early, but also correlates with the opportunity for expungement. Different rules apply to efforts to expunge adjudications resulting from different offenses (i.e., criminal, disorderly or petty disorderly person, or ordinance violations). See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4.1(a). The law also permits juveniles to expunge an “entire record of delinquency adjudications” under certain conditions. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4.1(b). Finally, a juvenile “against whom proceedings were dismissed,” such as at the conclusion of a deferred disposition, may utilize a more generous expungement provision. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4.1(c) (citing N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6). “Unless otherwise provided by law, if an order of expungement is granted, the arrest, conviction and any proceedings related thereto shall be deemed not to have occurred.” N.J.S.A. 2C:52-27. Notably, however, expunged records are not destroyed—instead, they are isolated—and may be accessed under certain circumstances. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1; In re D.H., 6 A.3d 421, 427 (N.J. 2009).
“New Jersey’s expungement laws were substantially revised in December 2019 by S4154, enacted as P.L. 2019, ch. 269, which expanded eligibility criteria, established a new ‘clean slate’ automated process to be developed under the direction of a task force, created an e-filing system for expungements, and eliminated expungement filing fees.” New Jersey Restoration of Rights & Record Relief, Restoration of Rights Project, https://ccresourcecenter.org/state-restoration-profiles/new-jersey-restoration-of-rights-pardon-expungement-sealing/.
Ideally, a juvenile delinquency case will be resolved on just terms that maximize a juvenile’s chance of success going forward. But sometimes a legal violation by a prosecutor, an incorrect ruling by a judge, or some combination or other miscarriage of justice requires an appeal. Generally, one has a right to an appeal only from final judgments—e.g., a judgment adjudicating a juvenile delinquent. See R. 2:2-3(a). But interlocutory appeals, meaning appeals taken during a case and before a final judgment, are sometimes permissible and appropriate. See R. 2:2-3. An example of an interlocutory appeal is an appeal from an order waiving a juvenile to adult court. State in the Interest of R.L., 202 N.J. Super. 410, 414 (App. Div. 1985).
An attorney with developed legal research and brief-writing skills, commanding strength in oral advocacy, and experiences such as clerking on or arguing before an appellate court would be in a solid position to prosecute an appeal.
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