Youth and Withholding Imprisonment (Part 2)

by | Feb 1, 2023 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Juvenile DelinquencyThe New Jersey Supreme Court majority continued in relevant part: The Legislature’s use of the language “take effect immediately” when it adopted N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(14) thus connotes prospective application. See L. 2020, c. 110. We find no suggestion in N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(14) — let alone the clear, strong and imperative declaration that our law demands for the presumption of prospective effect to be overcome — that the Legislature intended otherwise.

The legislative history confirms the Legislature’s intent that mitigating factor fourteen apply prospectively only. The Legislature made clear that when it amended N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b) to add the new mitigating factor, it adopted the CSDC’s fifth recommendation in its 2019 Annual Report. S. Judiciary Comm. Statement to A. 4373 1 (L. 2020, c. 110); accord A. L. & Pub. Safety Comm. Statement to A. 4373 1 (L. 2020, c. 110). As noted, although the CSDC urged the Governor and Legislature to apply three of its sentencing proposals retroactively to previously sentenced defendants, it did not mention retroactive application in the recommendation that led to N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(14). Annual Report at 21-26. The Legislature included the CSDC’s recommended language unaltered. See L. 2020, c. 110.

In short, nothing in N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(b)(14)’s statutory text warrants a determination that the presumption of prospective application is overcome. To the contrary, the amendment’s language and legislative history bespeak a legislative intent to apply the statute prospectively to defendants sentenced on or after its effective date of October 19, 2020. Accordingly, we do not consider defendant’s argument that the amendment should be retroactive because it is an ameliorative statute, or the parties’ contentions based on the Savings Statute. The judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed.

“Ameliorative” is a fancy way to say “make better.” The arguments regarding the statute being ameliorative tie in with the arguments in favor of giving it the broadest possible effect, i.e. retroactive effect.