The Three Strikes Law and Juvenile Offenses (Part 2)

by | Apr 3, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The New Jersey Supreme Court continued in relevant part: Second, an enhanced life-without-parole sentence is not grossly disproportionate where the offense is a dangerous and violent first-degree crime, such as armed robbery or attempted murder, the offenses for which defendant here received his final strike. Furthermore, as we noted in Oliver, repeat offenders are already subject to mandatory enhanced sentences under other statutes like the Habitual Offender Act and the Graves Act. This consistent application of extended terms reflects a legislative determination that such lengthy sentences are proportionate to the offenses covered by these statutes.

Lastly and most importantly, the punishment serves the legitimate penological objective of incapacitating serious third-time offenders. The Three Strikes Law “was a response to a genuine legislative concern that repeat offenders pose a unique danger to society,” as rehabilitative efforts have failed those defendants. Accordingly, the Legislature determined that an enhanced sentence of life without parole is necessary to protect the public from the most dangerous persistent offenders.

Here, defendant received his enhanced sentence on his third armed robbery conviction, having already served three and a third years of a ten-year prison sentence for his first offense, committed at the age of sixteen. Defendant was not only undeterred by incarceration, but his crimes committed after release from state prison grew increasingly violent: defendant assaulted two Wawa employees during the commission of his first post-release offense and then, before his arrest, shot a store clerk during his final robbery. In sum, defendant’s sentence accords with all elements of the three-part test and therefore does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Federal or State Constitution.

The Habitual Offender Act is often overlooked by courts and prosecutors. To qualify for an extended term under the Act, the defendant must: be 21 or older at the time of the crime, have committed two distinct prior crimes as an adult, and the last in time crime or release from confinement must have occurred within ten years of the most recent crime.