On May 2, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the Cape May County case of State v. Isiah T. McNeal. This was a per curiam opinion. This means that the decision called for such a straightforward application of the law to the facts that none of the justices needed to conduct their own independent analysis of the issues. The principal issue was whether the defendant should be allowed to withdraw his plea due to his attorneys mis-calculation of jail credits.
The Court held in relevant part as follows: Defendant Isiah T. McNeal argues that the amount of jail credit he was told he would receive was misrepresented and he should be permitted to move to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant entered into a plea agreement as a global resolution of the numerous indictments returned against him.
Defense counsel represented that defendant was told he would be entitled to 2438 days’ jail credit. The State disputed that assertion. The record shows that the plea court then thoroughly discussed the issue with defendant, who affirmed that he was not entering the plea agreement assuming the 2438 days of jail credit would be applied to the period of parole ineligibility he faced for an aggravated assault charge.
The fact that there were “numerous indictments” against the defendant could only work against him when courts and parole authorities are determining when he will be eligible for release. A solution to complicated jail credit scenarios is for the defense to come to an agreement with the prosecutor as far as the number of jail credits the defendant is entitled to and to list them as “negotiated jail credits” in the plea form. That way, if there is a court rule or case law that undermines the calculated number of credits, the fact that they were “negotiated” allows for plea withdrawal if they are not granted.