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What does a mandatory 3 year sentence mean if it is routinely pleaded to 1 year?

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I noticed something in an article in the Patch online newsletter about the latest enforcement programs against thugs using guns in Trenton.   TIDE and TAG.  TIDE is the enforcement teams of state troopers and federal agents, TAG is the prosecution of these gun offenders. (Hoffman is acting attorney general John J Hoffman.)  From the Patch article:

 

When the offenders are arrested by TIDE partners, Hoffman has mandated a "zero tolerance" prosecution policy that will effectively increase the sentence imposed on gun offenders in the targeted categories found in possession of a gun to at least 3 ½ years in state prison without possibility of parole. The current normal sentence is one year.

 

"We cannot tolerate this tide of violence that has innocent bystanders being shot on their porches," Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L Bocchini Jr said. "My office is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Attorney General, the New Jersey State Police and the Trenton police. I have assigned my first assistant prosecutor and senior legal staff to move TAG cases through the criminal justice system. These offenders can expect us to fight for high bails; they will see expedited indictments; and they can count on us to argue for stiff sentences."

 

Oh really.  Argue for stiff sentences.   So tell me if I am getting this right.

 

NJ had a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years for providing a gun to a minor under age 18.   Christie signed a law (S2804) extending this to 3 1/2 years as part of the infamous 10 gun laws.

 

Prior to the TIDE and TAG programs , it was the policy of the Mercer County prosecutor

(maybe all NJ county prosecutors) to plea bargain these cases down to 1 year!!

 

Once this is over, there is really nothing to stop them from going back to the same system?

 

My reaction to this is outrage.  The prosecutor routinely does not enforce the gun laws against violent criminals.  I finally found this on nj.com, it is buried pretty good, with only 20 comments (versus 744 on the scorching playground story and hundreds on other front page gun stories).  I am kind of amazed to even see this kind of admission. We should really call them out on this.  In addition to our constant argument to enforce existing laws before creating new ones, there's also the implication that these steps would have helped prevent some of the recent deaths and officer shootings.  Should be front page news.

 

Orignal article from the Patch:

 

The Attorney General introduced two programs aimed at combating gun violence in Trenton on Thursday.

Following Trenton Mayor Tony Mack’s request for more officers to be paid for by the state in response to the city’s escalating violent crime problem, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced a pair of programs to help combat crime in the city.

Calling the city’s murder rate “catastrophic,” Hoffman announced initiatives that focused on deploying more law enforcement officers to combat shootings in the city’s most violent neighborhoods and simultaneously arresting and prosecuting gang members, repeat offenders and drug dealers who carry guns in public.

“The death earlier this month of Barry Church, an innocent man caught in crossfire while sitting on his porch, is emblematic of the escalating gun violence in Trenton, which is nothing short of catastrophic,” Hoffman said. “While gangsters and drug dealers are more likely to be gunned down, the truth is that nobody is safe from these brazen shootings and murders that occur even on busy streets in broad daylight.  We won’t tolerate it, and we’re coming out in force. Our message to the thugs terrorizing Trenton is simple: Get your guns off the street, or we’re going to take you off the street.”

Trenton is on pace to set a record for the number of homicides in a single year. The record is currently 31, back in 2005. As of Thursday, there were 29 gun murders in Trenton for the year.

Hoffman announced the programs during a press conference in Trenton on Thursday afternoon.

The first program is called the  “Targeted Integrated Deployment Effort” (“TIDE”) program. It’s an intelligence-driven surge in deployments to suppress violent crime. The effort will be led by the State Police and involves State Police uniformed and investigative personnel, who will work with other state, county and federal personnel.

They will work in conjunction with Trenton Police uniform patrols, warrant squads and detectives.  The effort is focused on the East and West Wards, which have seen the most violence, according to Hoffman. TIDE includes high-visibility patrols during peak hours. It also employes covert operations. 

TIDE was launched Thursday with a targeted warrant sweep, and has already resulted in the arrest of 15 fugitives for violent crimes and other offenses, according to Hoffman.

The other program is the “Targeted Anti-Gun (“TAG”) Initiative.” This is a new arrest and prosecution strategy that brings focuses on gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders who carry guns in public. 

When the offenders are arrested by TIDE partners, Hoffman has mandated a “zero tolerance” prosecution policy that will effectively increase the sentence imposed on gun offenders in the targeted categories found in possession of a gun to at least 3 ½ years in state prison without possibility of parole. The current normal sentence is one year. 

The goal is to stop criminals from carrying guns, so street confrontations do not escalate spontaneously into shootings, Hoffman said.

“It will take nothing less than a collaborative effort from law enforcement on every level to properly address the increase of gun violence that has plagued the city of Trenton,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said. “These criminals must know that they will bear the full weight of law enforcement from the moment they hit the street with a gun in their waistband until the time the cell door slams behind them.”

“We cannot tolerate this tide of violence that has innocent bystanders being shot on their porches,” Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L Bocchini Jr said. “My office is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Attorney General, the New Jersey State Police and the Trenton police. I have assigned my first assistant prosecutor and senior legal staff to move TAG cases through the criminal justice system. These offenders can expect us to fight for high bails; they will see expedited indictments; and they can count on us to argue for stiff sentences.”

The most recent incident of gun violence in the city took place Thursday morning, when two police officers were wounded while responding to a domestic violence incident. The suspect was killed in that incident.

“The Trenton Police Department is committed to the collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners and the community,” Trenton Police Director Ralph Rivera Jr said.  “We will continue to have an aggressive multi-agency approach toward arrests and prosecutions of violent offenders.  We are going to engage our community to make these efforts sustainable and make this city a safer place to live, work, and invest in.”

“Gun violence threatens everyone who spends time in our cities blighted by gangs and drugs,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.  “All of us at every level in law enforcement are working together and we will bring the federal hammer when appropriate.  Illegal guns are primed for crime.  They have no place in our communities.”

Prior to the implementation of these two initiatives, Hoffman and law enforcement officials met with members of the community, including clergy, other civic leaders, social service providers, and non-governmental organizations to discuss the impact of the programs, according to Hoffman.

Last week, Gov. Chris Christie signed 10 new gun bills into law, including a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum term of parole ineligibility of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed or 3 ½ years, whichever is greater.

On Thursday, Hoffman announced there will be no no plea offer to a “tagged” gun offender that is less than the minimum of 3 ½ years in state prison without possibility of parole

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Pft... The thug (being convicted twice before) I convicted of "being a certain person in possession of a firearm" was convicted on only that charge. There was no mention of possessing a firearm with a destroyed serial number, lack of FPID, deviation from permitted possession areas or having the gun loaded with hollow points outside of allowable areas. This was in Mercer County where Joe B. is still in charge.

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Yes between Joe   B and Tony Mack how could anything go wrong?

 

I'm starting to suspect (yes call me naive) that everything with Christie is even shallower than it appears.

 

I mean, you think he'd at least try a little bit to keep Trenton at least, safe ?

But it's the old corporate thing,  if you touch it, you own it, so you desperately avoid touching it, even if you know it's broken.

That he leaves cronies like this in place for a 2nd term no less...probably tells you all you need to know about CC.

He is totally focused outside NJ.

He shouldn't even run for governor, except God help us when the Dem-rats finally get that back.

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In general, mandatory minimums are a terrible policy.

 

Some of the examples are unbelievable.

Agreed. Every situation is different. Some people who are technically "guilty" deserve no jail time, whereas others deserve much, much more.

In theory, "we" trust judges to, well, judge things, and make a learned, objective decision, based on the particulars of a case. Obviously, that is often not the case these days, with judicial activism, and such heightened political sensitivities infecting and corrupting the entire legal system. What MANDATORY sentences really say is "we don't trust the system and those in it to do their jobs correctly". Perhaps that is what should be changed/fixed. Otherwise, we might as well just get rid of human judges, and install Judge-matic Punish-a-trons in every court house.

 

On another note; while gun toting gang bangers are scum, prosecutors intentionally "targeting" them for a "fight for high bail" is unethical, or even unlawful. It seems it has become acceptable for bail to be used as sort of pre-trial, and pre-conviction, punishment. High profile case, or certain "targeted" crimes? Go for stupid high bail, that they know the defendant could never meet. Thereby effectively imposing a jail sentence on someone who is supposed to be legally treated as an innocent person, unless/until convicted. Bail is not to win brownie points with the public, or to make a political statement about being "tough on crime" The only legal purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant shows up for trial. So, $10 million bail, for a Corporate CEO charged with a fairly minor crime MIGHT be appropriate because, a.) they can reasonably come up with it and b.) its enough to ensure that they will want to come back to court and not forfeit it. On the other hand, $10k bail for a poor defendant, even if charged with a more serious crime, might be excessive. Sure, no one is shedding a tear for these gang bangers, but if the legal system is allowed to establish such mis-treatment as acceptable, it can just as easily be applied/directed towards anyone unfortunate enough to get caught up in it. 

 

Also, I noticed an interesting pattern in all the quotes from that prosecutor/officials. They kept emphasizing "GUN" violence, and the "GUNS", not the violence itself, or the underlying problem.  "The goal is to stop criminals from carrying guns, so street confrontations do not escalate spontaneously into shootings, Hoffman said."  Hmm. How 'bout just getting rid of the criminals to begin with, and eliminating the confrontations? I realize there is no "Moms w/o Brains, Who Demand Action Against Gang Bangers" with which to score "points" and votes, but still........

"Calling the city’s murder rate “catastrophic,” Hoffman announced initiatives that focused on deploying more law enforcement officers to combat shootings in the city’s most violent neighborhoods and simultaneously arresting and prosecuting gang members, repeat offenders and drug dealers who carry guns in public."

So, I guess the gang members, repeat offenders, and drug dealers who either don't carry guns, or only use them indoors, are ok? Here's an idea....

 

Step 1.) Classify gangs, with a documented history of violence, as domestic terrorist organizations.

Step 2.) Wear a gang "tat" or "throw" gang signs? Get charged as a member of a terrorist organization, and go to prison for a LONG time.

Step 3.) Absolutely and utterly stamp out any gang activity in prisons. Normally, I'm not a fan of Zero Tolerance policies, but this would be an exception. Instead of keeping the various gangs in prisons separate, where they can consolidate their power, and freely associate with all their "people", break them up. Forcibly mix the various gangs/races/groups/whatever. If they end up killing each other over stupid stuff like the color of their skin, or toilet paper or something, oh well. Perhaps offer a way out, to a more "peaceful" prison unit, with a bit more privileges,etc, for those who a.) voluntarily have removed any gang related tattoos ,  b.) publicly renounce any gang affiliation, and c.) demonstrate through ongoing behavior, that they meant it, and will behave themselves. Perhaps tie further privileges to education,etc... Generally speaking, the more educated someone is the less likely they are to be a violent "thug". 

For those that really want a second chance, and an opportunity to "get out" and make themselves a better person, then give it to them. For those that want to continue to behave like animals, treat them as such.

Step 4.) No one gets paroled while still having any gang tattoos. You agree to remove them, or you do your full sentence. I would like to say "forcible removal" or you never get out, but that would never fly, constitutionally.

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Mandatory minimums are flawed, three strikes is genius

If mandatory minimums are "flawed" then how is it that 3 strikes are genius? Its just another version of a mandatory minimum. And, it is just as flawed. There are plenty of small time petty thieves in CA, who are doing life in prison for a third very minor offense, such as shoplifting a pack of gum. Granted, they did commit a crime, and should be punished, but in many cases, these mandatory life sentences are nowhere near appropriate. Life sentences are only for those who we have decided, based on their actions, are never going to be fit for society again, and have no hope at all of being reformed.  I have even read articles of JUDGES nearly being in tears, and even apologizing to the defendants, because their hands were tied by "3-strikes" laws, and they had no choice but to impose life sentences where they were clearly, tragically inappropriate.

 

I'm not saying we shouldbe "soft" on crime, but we need to be reasonable, and fair about sentencing. It is also in our own best interest. Assuming your going to let someone out at some point, do you want them to be a disenfranchised, angry, bitter person with no hope for their future, but to return to crime? Or would you rather someone who could see some light at the end of the tunnel, and thus work to improve themselves in prison, and set themselves up for a productive/successful life after release?

 

 

And 1 year is way too short in these instances

Quite possibly. But, again, every case is different. While not likely, a few MIGHT be less then hardened criminals who just got "mixed up" with the wrong people. Give the judge the option, to sentence as may be appropriate. Also, perhaps, in some instances, its a matter of taking what they can get, if the prosecution has weak case. Perhaps, the defendant what take a plea for a year, but would choose to fight,and maybe be acquitted, if they were only offered 3 years? Again, every case is different.

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@carguy3j

 

because once you are convicted for a third time you have shown that you cannot follow the rules if society and if you CHOOSE to commit another crime knowing you have two convictions than bye bye.  It is only for felonies in most places so stealing a pack of gum would not qualify.  recidivism for violent and dangerous offenders is way too high and our system is a revolving door for far too many people.  this puts people at risk.  maybe if our prisons were tougher, i.e. many Asian nations or Russia, than maybe criminals would do more to not go back in the first place.

 

Another major problem we have is gangs.  Once you commit your life to a criminal organization there ideally would be MUCH tougher punishments (like throw away the key).  The problem is I would never trust the government with the power to to define/identify a "gang" for this purpose.

 

my comment on 1 year being too short was related to it being the norm.  I agree there will be exceptions, but in general this crime should warrant more than a year.

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Mandatory sentences come from politicians trying to get control of unelected judges and prosecutors.

Three strikes comes from the public (Initiative & Referendum) trying to get control of politicians.

So the I&R laws usually don't work right out of the box and need to be refined later.

But the alternative to 3 strikes is vigilantism which nobody wants, though I think it's the 'hood's response via "no snitch"

 

Really the line to throw back at them "If it saves one life".

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