No Early Release Act (“NERA”)
Understanding NERA Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Monmouth County NJ
The type of sentences imposed in New Jersey can vary drastically. Typically speaking, an individual sentenced to a term of incarceration will have what has been referred to as a “flat sentence”. Anyone sentenced to a flat term of incarceration will usually serve around 1/3 to 1/2 of their sentence before they become eligible for parole. For example, an individual sentenced to a ten (10) year term of incarceration will do about three (3) years and four (4) months before they could be eligible for parole. Over the years, in an effort to combat certain crimes, the legislature has created different acts that require an individual sentenced under one of them to have a mandatory parole ineligibility period be imposed. One of the more crippling acts was the No Early Release Act.
What is the No Early Release Act in New Jersey?
The No Early Release Act, which is more commonly referred to by its acronym, NERA, was passed in 1997. This act in essence requires that a mandatory parole ineligibility period be imposed for anyone convicted of certain crimes in New Jersey. This was enacted in response to the Federal Omnibus Crime Act of 1994, which mandated that anyone convicted in Federal Court serve at least 85% of their sentence before they could be released on parole. New Jersey did not go as far as to mandate the ineligibility period for every crime like the Federal Criminal Justice system but it does require it for certain enumerated crimes. As you will see below, the difference between a traditional “flat” sentence versus a sentence imposed pursuant to No Early Release Act will be significant. Here is some key information on the NERA, particularly important if you have been charged with a violent crime with a NERA mandatory minimum sentence attached.
How Much Time Do I Serve Pursuant to NERA?
As stated above, the No Early Release Act requires that any sentence imposed pursuant to this act include a mandatory term of parole ineligibility. That term must be 85% of the overall sentence imposed. Using the same example as above, an individual sentenced to a ten (10) year term of incarceration pursuant to the NERA, that individual serve around 8 1/2 years before they can be eligible for parole. So an individual sentenced pursuant to NERA will do more almost triple the amount of time as an individual who is granted a flat sentence.
What Crimes Fall Under the No Early Release Act in NJ?
As stated above, only certain crimes fall under the unforgiving reality of the No Early Release Act. The legislature clearly choose to target a specific class of offenses, and that class is crimes of violence. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2(d) spells out what crimes will be fall under NERA and they are as follows:
- Murder (N.J.S.2C:11-3)
- Aggravated Manslaughter & Manslaughter (N.J.S.2C:11-4)
- Vehicular Homicide (N.J.S.2C:11-5)
- Aggravated Assault (N.J.S.2C:12-1b)*
- Disarming a Law Enforcement Officer (N.J.S.2C:12-11b)
- Strict Liability Drug Induced Deaths (N.J.S.2C:35-9)
- Terrorism (N.J.S2C:38-2)
- Chemical Weapons (N.J.S.2C:38-3)
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child (N.J.S.2C:24-4b(3))*
- Racketeering (N.J.S.2C:41-2)
- Kidnapping (N.J.S.2C:13-1)
- Aggravated Sexual Assault (N.J.S.2C:14-2(a)
- Sexual Assault (N.J.S.2C:14-2(b)(1) & N.J.S.2C:14-2(c))*
- Robbery (N.J.S.2C:15-1)
- Carjacking (N.J.S.2C:15-2)
- Aggravated Arson (N.J.S.2C:17-1(a))*
- Burglary (N.J.S.2C:18-2)
- Extortion (N.J.S.2C:20-5(a))*
- Booby Traps in Drug Manufacturing (N.J.S.2C:35-4.1(1)(b)
- Firearms Trafficking (N.J.S.2C:39-9(i))*
*It is important to note that only certain subsections of the crimes listed above fall under this act. For example, only one of the subsections of aggravated assault falls under NERA, the other twelve subsections would not.
Can I Get Released in ISP if Serving a NERA Sentence in NJ?
Anyone serving a sentence pursuant to NERA will not be eligible for release prior to serving 85% of their sentence. Therefore, programs like the Intense Supervision Program (ISP), which allows for certain individuals be released much earlier than they ordinarily would be, will not be available.
Is the No Early Release Act Worse than the Graves Act?
The Graves Act, which is another sentencing act in New Jersey that requires a mandatory parole ineligibility period be imposed, is far less crippling than the NERA. The Graves Act, which mandates that a parole ineligibility be imposed for certain gun related crimes, only mandates that the period be set at 3 1/2 years or 1/2 of the overall sentence imposed, which ever is greater. Still using the same example as above, if an individual is sentenced to a 10 year term of incarceration pursuant to the Graves Act, the parole indelibility period would be five (5) years. Again, this sentence would be at least 1/3 less than had it been imposed pursuant to NERA.
NERA Only Applies to 1st and 2nd Degree Crimes in NJ
Can I Avoid Jail time on a NERA Case in NJ
An individual who either pleads guilty too or found guilty of a crime that falls under the No Early Release Act will not be able receive a term of probation. The only exception to this is if the individual is granted admission into New Jersey’s Drug Court Program. If that is to occur, the alternative sentenced imposed pursuant to Drug Court must be in line with NERA. In other words, if a term of incarceration is ultimately imposed, it must require the individual to serve 85% of that sentence.
Need to Speak to a Lawyer about No Early Release Act Charges in Monmouth County, NJ
It is clear that the No Early Release Act has an absolutely devastating impact on an already bad situation. If you have been charged with a crime that falls under NERA we strongly urge that you speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At Proetta, Oliver & Fay, we fully comprehend the impact any term of incarceration has on an individual’s life let alone one that requires the individual serve at least 85% of their sentence. If you have been charged with a NERA crime in Monmouth County, in towns like Holmdel, Hazlet, Asbury Park, Wall Township, Freehold, Long Branch, Highlands, Keansburg or elsewhere, we can help. To schedule an initial consultation today, please contact our office at (732)-858-6959.