Since 1979, New Jersey has provided for mandatory minimum sentences. A mandatory minimum sentence is a length of time that a convicted offender must serve before being eligible for parole.
The purpose of mandatory minimum sentencing is to prevent those who have been convicted of certain offenses from being released too early. Under ordinary circumstances, an offender may be released on parole before his or her sentence is up if he or she earns enough credits.
Credits can be earned through work while incarcerated, due to good behavior, or because his or her sentence has been commuted. One of the problems with mandatory minimum sentencing is that offenders have no incentive to behave while in prison, because they will not be permitted to obtain parole until after they have served their mandatory minimum sentence.
Certain offenses carry with them mandatory minimum sentences. In those cases, the judge must sentence the defendant to that minimum sentence, and may sentence the defendant to a longer sentence if he or she believes the sentence is justified. No mitigating circumstances, or extraordinary situations will be considered by the judge. In fact, the judge must ignore such circumstances during sentencing.
This makes it very important to develop a plea deal or plead not guilty to crimes with minimum mandatory sentences. If you face a charge with a minimum mandatory sentence, you know that you will, if convicted, be sentenced to at least that length of time, and possibly more. And once incarcerated, you will not be eligible for parole until that minimum sentence is completed.
This information is not intended to be legal advice.