Criminal Law

In the criminal law of New Jersey, the most important recent developments are what is called the No Early Release Act and the establishment of Statewide Plea Bargain Guidelines by the Attorney General's Office.

The No Early Release Act, which has the citation of N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, basically requires that 85% of any sentence imposed for a covered violent crime be served prior to there being parole eligibility. This is a very large variation from the prior law under which the Parole Board, with some exceptions, controlled parole eligibilty and individuals, who were first offenders or sentenced to prison for the first time, would be eligible for parole after serving approximately 1/3 of their sentence.

In the second development, Statewide Guidelines for Plea Bargaining are of tremendous importance because prior to these Guidelines the plea bargaining varied from county to county depending upon the local Prosecutor's policies and local conditions. This means that in certain counties, where plea bargains were considerably more lenient, that leniency exists to a lesser degree.

The importance of these two developments is that persons charged with a criminal offense may more frequently find themselves in a position where they are compelled to go to trial on a matter with a weak defense because the plea bargain offered is not at all a bargain.