Criminal Defense Firm in Hudson County, NJ
First and foremost, the primary purpose of any reliable sentencing system is to promote fairness and uniformity. With that in mind, the New Jersey sentencing system was created with imputed presumptions for imposition of imprisonment and sentencing ranges. These presumptions are subject to a limited discretion by the judge, so long as mandatory minimums or other legislative guidelines are not invoked. By imputing certain presumptions while allowing judicial discretion, the New Jersey Judicial Branch, specifically Hudson County Judges, is able to provide defendants with equitable, yet uniform, punishments.
Sentencing Considerations in Hudson County?
Once an individual has been convicted of an indictable crime or felony (i.e. anything in the first, second, third or fourth degree) a Hudson County Superior Court Judge will be presented with certain options regarding a sentence or punishment. Likewise, a Hudson County Municipal Court Judge will be presented with similar options for any non-indictable crime aka misdemeanor (i.e. a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense). Assuming there are no Graves Act (see page), Brimage Guidelines (see State v. Brimage 153 N.J. 1 (1998)), or any other mandatory incarceration implications, the judge will determine whether or not imprisonment is an appropriate sentence. Regarding these “presumptions” imputed on the judge, first and second degree crimes carry a presumption of incarceration. Alternatively, third and fourth degree crimes carry a presumption against incarceration. These presumptions are subject to judicial discretion and with a convincing argument by an attorney, the judge may choose to ignore the presumptions and either forgo imprisonment or require it.
If the judge decides to impose a term of imprisonment as punishment, he will next be required to assess and determine the appropriate length of the defendant’s incarceration. Pursuant to State v. O’Connor, 105 N.J. 399 (1987), the judge will be presented with the options of:
- Imposing a term appropriate to a crime of a lower degree (i.e. imposing a third degree range of 3-5 years for a second degree offense that carries 5-10 years);
- Imposing a term of parole ineligibility, where appropriate (can be mandatory or under the judge’s discretion);
- Imposing an extended term of imprisonment (typically reserved for repeat offenders, with some exceptions, see N.J.S.A. 2C:44-3);
- Imposing concurrent (multiple prison sentences running at the same time) or consecutive (multiple prison terms that only begin to run after the completion of a prior term) sentences.
What are Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in New Jersey?
For sentencing purposes, the judge will look at both aggravating and mitigating factors in assessing the harm committed and determining the term of imprisonment necessary for offender rehabilitation. Where there is no presumption as to imprisonment, the judge will weigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in determining whether to even imprison the defendant. Even if there is a presumption of imprisonment, so long as the mitigating factors significantly outweigh the aggravating factors to the point that the judge sees imprisonment as unreasonable, the defendant may overcome that presumption. However, this is a two-way sword that cuts both ways as significant aggravating factors which outweigh the mitigating factors could result in a term of imprisonment where the presumption was of non-incarceration. If you have any further questions with regards to how sentencing works in New Jersey, please contact our Jersey City office directly at (201) 309-1800. Any one of our eight Hudson County, NJ criminal defense lawyers are ready willing and able to assist you in any way possible.