New Jersey Poised To Set Juvenile Deliquency Minimum Age At 14

Legislation sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou that continues a push toward greater juvenile justice reform, and that establishes 14 years of age as minimum age for juvenile delinquency was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

“Juvenile justice reform must include basic civil rights for juvenile offenders,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “So often, our young people are put into our court and prison system, at ages when their bodies and minds are still forming, and before they understand the results of their actions. This legislation represents a sensible step that will allow the judicial system to take age into account when adjudicating cases involving young people.”

Under the bill, S-3911, “delinquency” would be defined by the commission as an act by a juvenile 14 years of age or older which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime of the first through fourth degree; a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense; or a violation of any other penal statute, ordinance, or regulation, with certain exceptions. The new standard would require an 18-month implementation period.

As of October 2022, at least 24 states, including New Jersey, had no minimum age for prosecuting minors. It was reported that data from the FBI revealed that over 600 children between the ages of 10 and 12 were arrested in New Jersey in 2019.

The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states that “states can expand opportunity and build stronger, more prosperous and inclusive communities by reducing the incarceration of children and young adults and increasing the use of sensible alternatives that advance equitable outcomes.”

The bill cleared committee by a vote of 3-1.

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