The New Jersey three strikes law allows repeat offenders of very serious or violent crimes to be given harsher sentences than might otherwise be allowed in the individual case. Specifically, judges can choose to sentence third-strike offenders to life without parole in cases that fall under this law.

What Types of Crimes Are Considered Strikes Under the Law?

The three strikes law doesn’t apply to all crimes. The crimes have to be especially violent or serious in nature to count as a strike under this law. Crimes that might lead to a strike if you’re convicted include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Murder
  • Aggravated manslaughter
  • Assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Other sexual offenses
  • First-degree kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Weapons offenses

What Happens When You Have Three Strikes Under the Law?

If you have been convicted of any of the above types of crimes twice and are facing a third charge, you may deal with the three-strikes provision if you’re convicted. That means the judge in the case can decide to sentence you to life in prison without parole.

This means judges can hand down sentences that are out of scope for the specific charges at hand. For example, aggravated manslaughter typically has a penalty of up to $200,000 in fines and 10 to 30 years in prison. If it’s a third strike, though, that maximum of 30 years in prison can turn into life.

Do Crimes Committed as a Juvenile Count as a Strike?

Many times people think that criminal convictions as a juvenile aren’t as serious as criminal convictions as an adult. While courts certainly do consider the age and maturity of someone when sentencing them, juvenile convictions can follow someone for the rest of their life.

One of the ways they do so is by acting as a strike. If someone is convicted of these serious crimes as a minor, it can still count as one of their strikes and lead to harsher sentencing for a later crime. This is just one reason a strong criminal defense is important when dealing with juvenile crimes cases.

How Does New Jersey’s Three Strikes Law Differ From Similar Laws in Other States?

The third strike law in some states also includes all felonies as offenses that might cause a strike. In New Jersey, only the most serious or violent indictable offenses can lead to a strike.

What Happens if You’re Sentenced on a Third Strike and One of Your Other Strikes are Later Removed?

It’s possible that you could be sentenced to life without parole on a third-strike conviction but one of your previous convictions is later overturned in appeals. If this happens, your criminal defense attorney may be able to work on your behalf to get the strike removed and have your sentence changed.

The Three Strikes Law Versus the No Early Release Act

It can be easy to get these two laws confused, as they deal in similar topics. However, they are not the same.

The No Early Release Act applies to certain violent crimes and requires that a person who is convicted of such crimes serve at least 85% of their sentence before they become eligible for parole. In cases where this act doesn’t apply, individuals who are convicted of a crime may be able to achieve parole after serving a much shorter period of their sentence in prison.

The No Early Release Act applies to individual crimes and does not require any type of repeat offenses. Even if someone is convicted on a first offense of a violent crime, this law limits when they can receive parole.

Efforts to Reform New Jersey’s Three Strikes Law

Over the years, activist groups, lawmakers, and others have sought to reform the three strikes law. Many point to it as a law that causes excessive sentencing. Others fall on the other side, arguing for a reduction in the number of strikes before life sentences can be handed down.

Laws like the three strikes law are often controversial and lead to ongoing efforts for change from many sides of the issue. And the laws often do change, which is another reason working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can be important. Even if you’ve faced the criminal justice system before, you may not know what laws and rules are currently in place.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

A criminal defense attorney can help repeat offenders in a variety of ways, including:

  • Reviewing the evidence and identifying any weaknesses or inconsistencies that can be used for a defense.
  • Negotiating with prosecutors to try to reach a plea deal that reduces the charges or sentence—and potentially avoids a strike.
  • Exploring alternative sentencing options such as diversion programs, community service, or treatment programs relevant to certain types of crimes.
  • Educating you about your rights and protecting those rights in court and throughout the defense process.
  • Providing guidance about the impact of laws such as the three strike law and No Early Release Law so you understand the risks you might be facing and what options you have for a defense.

The sooner you get an experienced criminal defense attorney involved, the more help he or she can provide. Reach out to the Bianchi Law Group, LLC, to find out how we can help with your case.