Consecutive Sentence Reasoning (Part 2)

by | Jun 29, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice LaVecchia continued in relevant part: Without further elaboration, the court determined that defendant was to serve the aggregate thirty-year sentence consecutively to defendant’s forty-year sentence imposed for the three other robberies. As to the second sentence, the Appellate Division found that the sentencing court had failed to engage in a careful analysis of either the Yarbough factors or the real-time consequences of defendant’s sentence. It remanded for a new sentencing hearing.

On remand, the court concluded that Yarbough required that defendant’s sentences be imposed consecutively to each other and to the prior forty-year sentence. It sentenced defendant to the same aggregate seventy-year sentence subject to an eighty-five percent parole disqualifier. Thus, the court’s sentence denies defendant the opportunity for parole until he reaches one hundred and two years of age. Defendant again appealed his sentence, and the Appellate Division affirmed by summary order. The Court granted certification.

An explicit statement, explaining the overall fairness of a sentence imposed for multiple offenses in a single proceeding or in multiple sentencing proceedings, is essential to a proper Yarbough sentencing assessment and was lacking here. The lack of any overall assessment of the fairness of the decision to impose consecutive sentences compels reversal of defendant’s sentence and remand for a new resentencing, and the Court provides important guidance regarding that essential assessment.

Prior to the enactment of the Code of Criminal Justice, sentencing decisions were guided by the view that punishment should fit the offender as well as the offense. To facilitate such defendant-oriented sentencing decisions, discretion to determine a sentence within the statutory range largely rested with the trial court. Dissatisfaction grew with this sentencing regime, whose critics suggested that it produced inconsistent and arbitrary results, and the Legislature began efforts to recodify the state’s criminal statutes, including those governing sentencing.

This could be the last opinion that Justice LaVecchia authors. She is retiring at the end of the Court’s term on August 31, 2021. Governor Murphy has nominated Rachel Wainer Apter as her replacement as Associate Justice. See Murphy to Nominate Wainer Apter to be an Associate Justice of NJ Supreme Court – Insider NJ