New Jersey Sentencing Guidelines
When a person is convicted of a crime in New Jersey, the person’s sentence is not automatic. A judge will ultimately decide whether the person serves time and for how long. However, New Jersey does have sentencing guidelines that require judges to take certain steps before sentencing in different cases. These guidelines establish the framework for outcomes to cases.
If you face any criminal charges or have concerns about possible sentencing in New Jersey, you should act quickly to find legal representation. An experienced attorney can ensure that you receive a fair sentence and fight to achieve the most favorable outcome for you. The Law Office of Jason A. Volet are prepared to help you through this trying time.
Jason A. Volet is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial attorney and is a former assistant prosecutor in Monmouth County. He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call or connect with us online to take advantage of a free consultation.
What Are the Sentencing Guidelines in New Jersey?
Title 2C of the New Jersey Revised Statutes is known as the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. It establishes several different sentencing guidelines. Judges must abide by these statutes when they determine sentences in criminal cases. Specifically, N.J.S. § 2C:43-2a establishes that all persons convicted of offenses must be sentenced according to that chapter. Under N.J.S. § 2C:43-2e, a court must state on the record the reasons for imposing a sentence.
How Do Sentencing Guidelines Work?
N.J.S. § 2C:44-1 provides the criteria for withholding or imposing a sentence of imprisonment. The sentencing guidelines establish ranges for certain convictions. Generally, this law applies when a court must deal with a person who has been convicted of a crime of the first or second degree by imposing a sentence of imprisonment. The only exception would be if the court believes that imprisonment would be a serious injustice, which would allow for an override of the guidelines.
When a person is convicted of an offense other than a crime of the first or second degree and has not previously been convicted of an offense, the court will deal with the person without imposing a sentence of imprisonment (unless the court believes that confinement is necessary for the protection of the public).
Additionally, a court can sentence a person to a term appropriate to a crime of one degree lower than that of the crime for which they were convicted if the court is clearly convinced that the mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating factors in a crime of the first degree or second degree, and where the interest of justice demands it.
What Is a Strict Liability Offense?
In criminal law, strict liability means that prosecutors are not required to prove a mens rea (criminal intent) element. Strict liability is typically more common in civil law to allow negligent parties to be held accountable. Still, certain crimes are considered to be strict liability offenses. For example, a person can be charged with statutory rape in New Jersey regardless of whether the person knew that the alleged victim was a minor. Many traffic violations are also strict liability offenses.
Because no finding of criminal intent is necessary in the prosecution of these crimes, they can be somewhat more challenging to defend against. The defense may need to focus on constitutional and procedural issues or on challenging the prosecution’s evidence that the person performed the act which led to the charge.
What Factors Does the Judge Consider When Imposing a Sentence?
When evaluating a defendant’s sentence, the judge will examine the facts of the case and will weigh any aggravating or mitigating circumstances that will either compel the judge to increase the sentence or decrease it.
Aggravating circumstances are factors that support a stiffer penalty, including:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense
- The gravity and seriousness of harm inflicted on the victim
- The risk that the defendant will commit another offense
- The extent of the defendant’s prior criminal record and the seriousness of the offenses of which they were convicted
- The need for deterring the defendant and others from violating the law.
Mitigating circumstances are factors that weigh in a defendant’s favor and include when the defendant:
- Does not contemplate that his or her conduct would cause or threaten serious harm
- Acts under a strong provocation
- Compensates the victim for the damage or injury
- Participates in a program of community service
- Does not have a history of prior delinquency or criminal activity
- Displays character and attitude that indicates that the person is unlikely to commit another offense
- Is willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities
- Was induced to commit a crime or aided in the commission of a crime by the alleged victim.
Before imposing any sentence, a judge must consider all of the relevant factors.
Get Help from an Experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Were you arrested for a criminal offense in New Jersey? If so, make sure to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. While the situation may seem dire, remember that just because you have been accused of a crime does not automatically mean that you will be convicted. A conviction also doesn’t automatically mean that you will be given the maximum penalty allowed by law. By hiring an experienced attorney to represent you, you could have the charges and penalties reduced significantly.
Attorney Jason A. Volet is a former prosecutor who is committed to representing those who have been accused of crimes in New Jersey. His unique experience will give you an edge when he works on your case. He knows how the prosecution will approach your case, and he will use his insider’s knowledge and legal skill to build the strongest possible defense on your behalf.
The Law Office of Jason A. Volet, LLC, has offices in Freehold and Neptune but serves clients all over New Jersey. Contact us to set up a free consultation today.