New Jersey Court Records
What are New Jersey Juvenile Court Records?
A juvenile is a person below the age of 18 who commits an offense that state laws categorize as criminal offenses for adults. A juvenile enters the court system when a law enforcement agency or private individual files and signs a complaint with the court stating that the person committed a criminal offense. If there is cause to believe that a juvenile is delinquent, a law enforcement officer can take the juvenile into custody. Instead of signing the complaint, the officer may choose to divert the complaint by conducting a station house adjustment or releasing the juvenile to a responsible guardian or adult.
If the officer signs the complaint and the juvenile meets other detention criteria, the officer must refer the case to intake service to request that the court admit the juvenile into detention.
In New Jersey, family court cases begin with an initial detention hearing. If the case proceeds to trial, the family court judge alone will find the facts and deliver judgment. There are no jury trials in juvenile cases. The juvenile justice system can impose strict penalties, including custody in a juvenile detention center. Records generated in the process of a juvenile court case, from complaint to the ruling, are juvenile court records. The law does not consider juvenile records criminal records since juveniles are not considered criminal but adjudicated delinquent.
What Information is Contained in a New Jersey Juvenile Record?
New Jersey juvenile records contain official documents and records of a juvenile’s progress through the New Jersey Juvenile Court System. These include complaints, pleadings, orders, arrest, pre-trial documents, probation status, statements, mental health reports, and case disposition. Juvenile records also contain information about the juvenile’s identity, including biographical data such as names, address(es), and contact details. New Jersey juvenile records are confidential, except the offense that the juvenile commits involves bodily harm or serious property damage.
What Cases are Heard by New Jersey Juvenile Courts?
The New Jersey juvenile court has jurisdiction over criminal cases that involve juveniles. A juvenile is a child who, at the time of the offense, is under 18 years old. The New Jersey juvenile court also has jurisdiction over adults, such as parents and other family members, who contribute to a juvenile’s delinquency.
The juvenile court’s jurisdiction does not extend to children who are charged together with adults. Additionally, the juvenile court may transfer jurisdiction to the adult criminal court for juveniles charged with homicide. The adult criminal court treats transferred juveniles as adults. If the adult criminal court finds a juvenile guilty of a criminal offense, the court will sentence the juvenile to imprisonment in an adult incarceration facility, and the juvenile will be subject to the same penalties and sentences as adults. In order to qualify for a waiver to the adult court, the juvenile must be at least 14 years old at the time of the offense.
Who is Eligible to View Juvenile Records in New Jersey
According to NJ Rev Stat § 2A:4A–60, records of delinquent juveniles and juveniles that are part of a juvenile-family crisis are not public records. The people eligible to view juvenile records in New Jersey are:
- Law enforcement agencies
- Any court or probation division
- The juvenile’s guardians or parents
- The juvenile’s attorney
- Correctional facilities or institutions holding the juvenile
- The Juvenile Justice Commission
- Persons interested in the case who are court-authorized
- The office of the child advocate
- Court-appointed special advocate
- Victims and members of the victim’s immediate family
- The principal of the school the juvenile attends
However, if the court finds a juvenile guilty of first, second, or third-degree crimes, crimes involving aggravated assault or property damage worth more than $500, the court will make the juvenile’s name, adjudication, offense, and case disposition publicly available.
How to Find Juvenile Records in New Jersey
In New Jersey, juvenile records are publicly inaccessible. Only authorized persons or persons with a subpoena or court order may access juvenile records. Requesting parties must also obtain the juvenile’s parent or guardian’s consent. If the record’s subject is above 18, the requesting party must obtain the person’s consent.
Requesting parties must fill and submit a Records Request Form and an Authorization to Release Protected Information. Requesting parties must then send the completed forms to the Juvenile Justice Commission through email or fax at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609–943–4611, respectively.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Can you Lookup New Jersey Juvenile Records Online?
No, it is not possible to look up New Jersey juvenile records online. By law, New Jersey juvenile records are not publicly accessible. However, there are exceptions for records of offenses involving bodily harm and serious property damage. Even so, if the court seals juvenile records on request, such records will no longer be publicly accessible. In order to seal juvenile records, the petitioner must convince the court that there is just cause for sealing. Interested parties must contact the Juvenile Justice Commission and submit required documentation to request juvenile records.
Do New Jersey Juvenile Records Show up on Background Checks?
Although juvenile records are not criminal records, juvenile records may show up in background checks, especially checks run for school and employment purposes. However, juvenile records that the court sealed or expunged do not show up in background checks. Interested parties may file a motion with the court to seal juvenile records if:
- Two years have passed since the court order that does not involve custody or supervision, or two years have passed since the juvenile’s discharge from supervision or legal custody.
- The court has not convicted the record subject of any criminal offense or delinquency in the two years before filing.
- There are no pending cases or complaints against the juvenile.
- The juvenile enlists in any branch of the US Armed Forces.
When the court grants a sealing order, the records become unavailable to the public. Law enforcement officers and government agencies may inform any requesting party that there is no record. Only persons named in the motion will be able to access the record.
Parties interested in expunging New Jersey juvenile records must file an expungement petition with the Superior Court in the county where the juvenile case was first tried. The petitioner must be able to provide the following information:
- The offense for which the court adjudicated the juvenile delinquent or authorized detention/custody
- Custody date
- Original complaint number
- Adjudication date
- Case disposition or punishment
To qualify for expungement, the petitioner must also fulfill the following requirements:
- It has been five years since the juvenile was released from legal custody or supervision.
- Five years have passed since the court entered another order that does not involve supervision or custody.
- The court did not adjudicate the juvenile delinquent.
- The court has never dismissed or expunged an adult criminal record of which the juvenile is the subject.
When the court gives an order of expungement, the court removes and isolates all records about the juvenile case from all court, law enforcement, and correctional facility databases. The court considers expunged juvenile offenses not to have occurred.
How Long are Juvenile Records Kept in New Jersey?
New Jersey law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, and the Juvenile Justice Commission keep juvenile records until the courts grant an order to seal or expunge the records. Unlike in some states, New Jersey does not automatically expunge or seal juvenile records; interested parties must file a petition with the court to request sealing or expungement.