The Family Division of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office is primarily responsible for the prosecution of juvenile delinquency cases as well as the prosecution of adult criminal defendants who violate domestic violence restraining orders. Additionally, the Family Division is charged with prosecuting parents who fail to pay their court ordered child support and prosecuting those individuals who violate custody orders by removing their children from our jurisdiction.
The Family Division is comprised of assistant prosecutors and support staff. The trial support unit of the Detective Division, located in the Court House is also utilized regularly by the Family Division. The Family Division is one of the largest units in the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office. On average over the past three years, the Office of the Monmouth County Prosecutor has opened up more than 2,600 new criminal cases involving juvenile offenders. Many of these files have multiple offenders and as such over the past three years, an average of 3,779 individual juveniles have been prosecuted each year.
In the year 2000, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office became the largest county in the State to assume the charging function for all juvenile delinquency complaints arising within the county. Prior to 2000, every municipal police department filed delinquency charges directly with the Family Court. Unlike the adult Criminal system which relies upon a Grand Jury and a Prosecutor to determine the adequacy of the potential criminal charges, the juvenile delinquency process has no such equivalent. The central charging process creates parity and consistency within the 53 separate municipalities within the County to ensure that all similarly situated juvenile offenders are treated fairly.
While many delinquency cases are retained by the Office for formal prosecution, there are a significant number of cases which are screened to court supervised diversionary programs to give young, first time offenders the opportunity to demonstrate their amenability to rehabilitation without the need for a formal court appearance.
Of the formally prosecuted cases, the crimes range from petty offenses such as trespass, through the more serious crimes, up to and including sexual assault, robbery and murder. Prosecuting attorneys assigned to the juvenile unit are expected to perform to the same level of competence prosecuting these cases as are the prosecutors who prosecute adult criminals for the same offenses. Incarceration is often sought for juveniles who commit the most violent crimes and for juveniles who have demonstrated that a less severe penalty would serve no deterrent effect.
In addition to the juvenile delinquency cases, the Family Division is statutorily charged with the responsibility of prosecuting adult criminal defendants who violate domestic violence restraining orders. The goal of domestic violence prosecutions is to hold the abuser accountable, while at the same time protecting the interests of the victim. The unit is responsible for screening all indictable restraining order violations to determine whether or not they are appropriate for presentation to the Grand Jury, or in the alternative if they are best venued for prosecution in the Family Court. Once this decision is made, these cases are vigorously pursued in both venues, often over the objections of the victim. This is sometimes necessary to properly ensure the safety of the victim from the abuser. The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office enjoys an excellent working relationship with "180, Turning Lives Around", the organization formerly known as the Monmouth County Women's Center. This relationship enables the Prosecutor's office to be especially sensitive to the needs of abused women within the county and to provide appropriate relief and services.