What are No Early Release Act (NERA) crimes in New Jersey and how much state prison time will a convicted person have to serve?
New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, maintains mandatory minimum sentencing laws for many crimes, especially violent felony offenses in the State. The Garden State also has mandatory sentencing (42 months) for unlawful possession of handgun crimes under its Graves Act. With that said, in New Jersey, a person typically has the possibility of parole after serving approximately one-third of the imposed sentence. This is otherwise known as a “flat sentence”.
What are NERA crimes in New Jersey?
There are certain offenses in New Jersey however which are subject to NERA penalties (2C:43-7.2). These include the following violent felony crimes:
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated Manslaughter
- Vehicular homicide
- Aggravated arson
- Aggravated sexual assault
What is a NERA mandatory minimum state prison term?
NERA offenses require that a Defendant who is convicted of any of the above offenses serve a minimum 85% of the term imposed before the possibility of parole. The above stated crimes are crimes of the first and second degree in New Jersey where the maximum punishment ranges from 10 to 20 years. This means that a person who is sentenced to a 10-year state prison term for a crime of the second degree (the maximum term) would not be eligible for parole until 8.5 years time had passed. If a person was sentenced under a first-degree penalty where the maximum penalty is 20 years, he or she would have to serve approximately 17.5 years of state incarceration before being eligible for parole. Keep in mind that New Jersey also has mandatory minimum sentencing under its Graves Act for all unlawful possession of handgun and firearm cases (2C:39-5.)
These are mandatory minimums, and the Judge is not permitted to deviate from them pursuant to New Jersey criminal statute. If a person were to negotiate a plea for a NERA offense, they would only be able to negotiate the top number and not the parole eligibility number. NERA crimes are extremely serious in New Jersey and this is why you should explore the possibility of lower graded sentencing options (pled to a first, but sentence is a second) if there are no triable issues in your criminal case or no viable pre-trial Motions, including Motions to Suppress; Evidence due to a violation of your constitutional rights under the 4th and 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution.
With any first or second degree offense in New Jersey, there is a presumption of state incarceration and therefore it is unlikely that convicted person would receive a non-custodial period of probation in these cases.
5 Year Period of Parole Supervision
NERA also requires that a convicted person serve a mandatory 5-year period of parole following release from state prison if convicted of a first-degree crime and a 3-year parole if convicted of a second-degree crime.
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