The New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice defines a juvenile as “any individual who is under the age of eighteen years.” N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60. Juveniles are charged with acts of delinquency upon the State’s filing of a complaint. The complaint must be signed by an individual who (a) has knowledge of the facts alleged to constitute delinquency, or (b) is informed of such facts constituting the delinquent act and believes them to be true, the signor doesn’t necessarily need to be a police officer.
One very distinguishing factor about the Juvenile system in New Jersey is that these matters, which are criminal in nature, are not heard in the Criminal Court, rather they are heard by the Family Court, which has jurisdiction in the matter and may enter a disposition adjudicating the juvenile delinquent. The Family Judge can adjudicate the child a delinquent when the Judge finds that the juvenile has committed one of the following: (1) an act that, as an adult, would constitute a crime; (2) a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense; or (3) a violation of any penal statute, ordinance, or regulation.
Furthermore, the code does not deem juvenile delinquents to be criminals and also it does not impose any of the civil disabilities that accompany an adult conviction.