Criminal justice reformers have advocated for a bill recently passed by the New Jersey Senate that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for a variety of state criminal offenses.
Bill Passes Senate, Proceeding to Assembly Hearings
Bill S-3456 was approved by the state Senate late February without discussion, where it proceeded to Assembly committee meetings for consideration prior to being referred to the full Assembly for a vote.
Prior Versions of Bill Faced Legislative Opposition
Approval of S-3456 was not without its hiccups. An earlier version of the bill, which would have eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for 13 different crimes, stalled when State Sen. Nicholas Sacco introduced an amendment to add official misconduct to the list of crimes. It was later revealed that the son of Sen. Sacco’s girlfriend was currently facing trial on charges of official misconduct.
A new version of the bill that ultimately passed the Senate was introduced, expanding the list of offenses to include official misconduct and others, including two other crimes that Sen. Sacco’s girlfriend’s son was also facing charges of.
Assemblyman Brian Bergen voted against the bill during an Assembly committee hearing, accusing “the Legislature [of] legislating themselves out of trouble.” Assemblyman Bergen stated that he supported the initial version of the bill but could not vote for it with official misconduct included on the list of offenses.
Gov. Phil Murphy did not clearly indicate whether he would sign the bill but stated that he did not support including official misconduct on the list of offenses.
Bill Eliminates Mandatory Minimums for Certain Criminal Offenses
S-3456 would end mandatory minimum sentencing for 29 different criminal offenses under New Jersey law, including crimes such as:
- Official misconduct
- Money laundering
- Tampering with public records
- First-degree computer hacking
- Unauthorized computer access
- Distribution of controlled dangerous substances within 1000 feet of school property
- Leading a narcotics trafficking network
- Leading a cargo theft ring
- Hindering apprehension or prosecution
- Second-degree robbery
Legislative Effort Part of Larger Push for Criminal Justice Reforms
S-3456 is part of a larger effort towards criminal justice reform that includes reviewing legislation passed in the 1980s and 1990s that reform advocates argue has been responsible for creating significant racial disparities in criminal justice. One criminal justice reform group argued that Black people in New Jersey were being incarcerated at 10 times the rate of whites in the state, the highest such disparity of any state in the country.
S-3456 is supported by New Jersey Together, a group advocating for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing. The group sent a letter to Assembly members encouraging them to pass the bill despite the opposition to eliminating mandatory minimums for official misconduct. The group cited state prison data that showed that Blacks were four times more likely to be incarcerated for official misconduct than whites, while only 44 individuals were currently incarcerated for official misconduct. The group pressed Assembly members by stating that “to delay justice for thousands of people because of a disagreement about 44 people is utterly unacceptable.”
Contact an Experienced Woodbridge Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Charges in New Jersey
Were you arrested or charged in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC have successfully represented clients charged in Princeton, Freehold, Mount Laurel, Jersey City, and throughout New Jersey. Call (732) 334-7468 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 227 Main Street, Woodbridge, NJ 07095, as well as offices located in Freehold, Mount Laurel, Jersey City, and Princeton.
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