How Does the Judge Determine the Appropriate Sentence?
After someone is found guilty or pleads guilty to a criminal offense in New Jersey the next step is for the judge to determine what the appropriate sentence is. Procedural speaking, the type of charge will likely determine the how the sentence is imposed. If someone is to be sentenced on a disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense like marijuana possession, simple assault, harassment, trespassing or possession of drug paraphernalia, the judge will likely make an assessment on the spot as to what the appropriate sentence will be. At this time the judge will listen to the arguments of defense counsel, the prosecution as well as any victim(s) prior to imposing the sentence. Conversely, if the individual is to be sentenced on a indictable offense, then the judge will almost certainly require that a pre-sentence report be conducted and formal sentencing date will be set. A pre-sentence interview will be conducted by the probation department and they will compile an in-depth pre-sentence report that will not only highlight the offense and the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense but a comprehensive analysis of the individual as whole. At the sentencing date, the judge will have reviewed the pre-sentence report, will then listen to the arguments of defense counsel, the prosecutor as well as any victim(s). Once they hear from everyone, they will then balance the aggravating and mitigating factors and impose the sentence the deem is appropriate. If the judge is sentencing an individual based on a negotiated plea agreement, the agreement more likely than not will be followed.
What Options Does the Judge have when Imposing a Sentence?
Any discretion that the judge has will more likely than not will be dictated by the type of charge that the individual is to be sentenced on. For example, if the individual is to be sentenced on a crime of the first or second degree, where there is a presumption for incarceration, that means that the judge will have very little discretion to not impose a term of incarceration. Conversely, is the individual to be sentenced for a crime of the third or fourth degree, where there is a presumption against incarceration, at least for first time offenders. Furthermore, is the individual is being sentenced on a crime that is subject to the Graves Act or falls under the No Early Release Act (NERA) the judge will have no discretion but to sentence the individual to a term of incarceration. Here is a list of some helpful resources when it comes to potential sentencing options in New Jersey.
Here is some helpful information on the different degrees of the charges:
- First Degree Felony
- Second Degree Felony
- Third Degree Felony
- Fourth Degree Felony
- Indictable Offense
- Disorderly Persons Offense
- Borough Ordinance
Monmouth County Criminal Defense Attorneys
It is absolutely crucial that anyone charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey fully understand every aspect of their case, which includes the potential exposure that they face as well. If you have been charged with an indictable offense like aggravated assault, eluding, heroin possession or theft by deception or a disorderly persons offense like marijuana possession, shoplifting, harassment or a traffic offense like driving while intoxicated in Monmouth County, Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help. If you would like to set up a free initial consultation today with one of our Monmouth County criminal defense attorneys, then please contact our office at 732.858.6959. We serve all of Monmouth County, including towns like Hazlet, Holmdel, Belmar, Manalapan, Aberdeen, Atlantic Highlands, Red Bank and Middletown.
Here is the New Jersey Sentencing Manuel created by the New Jersey Appellate Division.