NJ Courts to Take Post-Conviction Action into Account When Sentencing

December 17, 2014 · by rosenblumlawfirm · in

There are two general concerns for any defendant facing prosecution:  (1) will I be found guilty, and, (2) if so, what will my punishment be. In New Jersey, as in many jurisdictions, there is often a delay between conviction and sentencing and the New Jersey Supreme Court has issued a new ruling that the defendant’s actions in this interim period between conviction and sentencing must be taken into account during sentencing.

The Supreme Court ruling stated, in part, that:

Because a sentencing analysis is a fact-sensitive inquiry, which must be based on consideration of all the competent and credible evidence raised by the parties at sentencing, the trial court must consider evidence of a defendant’s post-offense conduct.

It also states:

Court holds that the trial court should view a defendant as he or she stands before the court on the day of sentencing, and that evidence of post-offense conduct, rehabilitative or otherwise, must be considered in assessing the applicability of, and weight to be given to, aggravating and mitigating factors.

Seal of the Supreme Court of New Jersey

Seal of the New Jersey Supreme Court, which ruled in State v. Jaffe that a defendant’s actions between conviction and sentencing must play a role in the sentencing hearing. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

This means that both positive (mitigating) and negative (aggravating) factors must be taking into consideration. The severity of sentencing can be strongly increased or strongly decreased depending on the defendant’s post-conviction actions.

This ruling comes as the conclusion of State v. Jaffe. As reported in the daily record, Joseph Jaffe was a defendant in a criminal prosecution for drug possession. Mr. Jaffe’s plea bargain included delayed sentencing and during this delay Jaffe got sober, attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings, joined a support group, got engaged, and became a father figure for his fiancé’s child.

At the sentencing hearing, Mr. Jaffe’s attorney argued that his pre-sentence report, 11 months old at the time, was stale and that the Judge did not have the proper updated information. The sentencing Judge denied counsel’s request to use this updated information in considering what sentence to impose.

The court was skeptical about Mr. Jaffe’s changed behavior as he had 7 prior offenses and had repeatedly claimed to reform. Jaffe was sentenced to three years in prison for his offenses. An appeal, arguing that an excessive sentence had been imposed, was denied.

While not benefiting the defendant (as he had already served his time), the Supreme Court overturned this ruling stating that judges must consider relevant post-offense conduct when weighing aggravating and mitigating factors during sentencing. Mr. Jaffe’s sentence was vacated and the lower court was ordered to resentence him after weighing aggravating and mitigating factors again.

A fundamental purpose of our penal system is to rehabilitate offenders. It appears that Mr. Jaffe’s conviction led him to reform and rehabilitate—and ignoring this would imply that our judicial system isn’t actually concerned with offender rehabilitation.

If you have been charged with a crime, you need a team of dedicated New Jersey criminal defense attorneys to handle your case.  Call us at 888-815-3649 for a free consultation.