California Rapper “A$AP Rocky” Charged – Assault with a handgun and mandatory minimum sentences. How are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California different?
Recently in Los Angeles, California rapper, A$AP Rocky, whose legal name is Rakim Mayer, was charged with felony assault with a firearm. He is accused of drawing a firearm and shooting twice in the direction of the alleged victim during an alleged argument in Hollywood, California, last November. The music artist has pled not guilty to two counts of these assault charges which were allegedly committed with a semi-automatic firearm.
While our law firm is not licensed in the State of California, this case brings up a good opportunity to explain assault charges involving firearms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as compared to California. In California, an assault using a gun is a more serious offense then other types of assaults in that state. This crime in California doesn’t require any physical harm and even the threat of harm with a gun could lead to a charge and an eventual criminal conviction.
What is defined as a gun or a firearm under the law?
Similar to California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania define a firearm as any device designed to use as a weapon from which a projectile is discharged or expelled through the barrel by force of an explosion or some other form of combustion. Firearms, therefore, include the following:
- Semi-automatic gun
- Machine Gun
- Assault weapon
Assault with a Firearm in California
Assault with a firearm in California can be charged as a misdemeanor, which is punishable up to six (6) months to one (1) year in jail or as a felony, where a person faces up to nine (9) years in State prison if the result of the assault caused great bodily harm. The penalties increase depending on the type of weapon used (machine gun, assault weapon).
How does Pennsylvania charge assault with a firearms?
In Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth does not define assault with a firearm, but categorizes it as an aggravated assault, a felony offense. In addition, if the person did not have a license to carry, he or she can be charged with a violation of the Uniform Firearm’s Act under Section 6106. Further, if the person is a convicted felon or a prohibited person as defined in the Commonwealth, he or she can be charged under Section 6105, which is a felony of the first degree in the Commonwealth. Aggravated assault, again, is a felony offense in Pennsylvania and is graded as a felony of the first degree if the suspect attempts to cause or causes serious bodily injury. Aggravated assault in the Commonwealth does not need to be charged as a felony of the first degree simply because it involves a deadly weapon. It is a felony of the second degree if the person or suspect attempts to cause or causes bodily injury with a deadly weapon.
How does New Jersey charge assault with a firearm?
New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania and California, imposes mandatory minimum sentencing for the illegal possession of a gun or firearm. It is nearly impossible to obtain a permit to carry in New Jersey. If a person is charged with crime involving an assault, he or she more than likely will face at least two (2) charges under New Jersey’s Graves Act – Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose (2C:39-4) and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm (2C:39-5).
No Early Release Act (NERA) and Assault Charges in New Jersey
In addition, a person who commits an aggravated assault in the State of New Jersey under 2C:12-1 is at risk for a no-early release (NERA) penalty.
In New Jersey, most prison sentences are known as flat sentences. This means that you will serve between one-third and one-half of sentence imposed before you become illegible for parole. NERA, however, requires that a convicted person serves at least 85% of their sentence before they are illegible for parole.
NERA (2C:43-7.2) crimes in New Jersey include the following:
- Aggravated manslaughter
- Vehicular homicide
- Aggravated assault
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Aggravated arson
What are the possible sentences for these types of crimes?
In New Jersey, the maximum punishment for a crime of first degree is twenty (20) years. A crime of second degree is ten (10 years and a crime of third degree is five (5) years. Fourth degree crimes in the Garden State have a maximum punishment of eighteen (18) months. Pennsylvania makes a felony of the first degree a maximum of twenty (20) years, a second degree ten (10) years and a third degree seven (7) years.
Obviously, this rapper may have strong defenses at the pre-trial and trial level which could include Motions to Suppress Evidence (unlawful search and seizure). Further, his defense lawyers may attempt to negotiate a noncustodial (no jail or prison) sentence for this individual. It is not known if he has a prior criminal history or any other mitigating evidence. California, unlike New Jersey, does not impose mandatory minimum sentencing after Governor Brown, in 2017, repealed the mandatory sentencing wall which was a minimum of 3-10 years if the firearm was used, a minimum of twenty (20) years if the firearm was discharged and minimum of twenty-five (25) years to life if the discharge firearm caused great bodily injury.
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