Drug Court Resentencings and the Sixth Amendment (Part 5)

by | Apr 18, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Drug Crime, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Judge Susswein continued in relevant part: The circumstances in Haymond that prompted the Court to find an Apprendi violation are clearly distinguishable from the case before us. In stark contrast to § 3583(k), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(f) does not prescribe a new mandatory minimum sentence. Rather, our statute incorporates by reference the minimum and maximum sentences that could have been imposed originally based on defendant’s conviction. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(f)(4) provides that if the court permanently revokes the defendant’s special probation pursuant to this subsection, the court shall impose any sentence that might have been imposed, or that would have been required to be imposed, originally for the offense for which the person was convicted or adjudicated delinquent.

Importantly, the Haymond plurality distinguished the defective federal supervised release statute at issue before it from probation and parole, which it noted “have usually been understood to comport with the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.” Haymond, 588 U.S. __, 139 S. Ct. at 2381 (plurality opinion). The plurality explained that probation and parole comply with Apprendi principles because, upon finding a violation, “a judge generally could sentence the defendant to serve only the remaining prison term authorized by statute for his or her original crime of conviction.” Id. at 2382. “Thus, a judge could not imprison a defendant for any longer than the jury’s factual findings allowed-a result entirely harmonious with the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.” Ibid. New Jersey’s special probation revocation law is just the sort of traditional probation statute the Haymond plurality deemed “to comport with the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.” Id. at 2381.

It is also noteworthy that when describing the maximum allowable sentence following a violation of supervised release, the Haymond plurality made no mention of the non-custodial portion of the sentence. The plurality opinion, in other words, does not pronounce, or even intimate, that as a matter of constitutional imperative, the time a defendant has already spent out of prison on supervised release must be added to the custodial sentence for purposes of determining whether the prescribed statutory maximum has been exceeded.

The panel’s focus on what the federal constitution requires is consistent with a federalization that has occurred in our state courts in recent years. Our state constitution has historically provided greater constitutional protections than the analogous federal provisions.