What Is New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA)?
When it comes to prison sentences, most are what are called flat sentences. This means that you will usually serve between ⅓ and ½ of the sentence before you become eligible for parole. However, for a certain subset of serious first and second degree crimes, a bad situation is made even worse due to the provisions set out in the No Early Release Act (NERA), also known as N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. This criminal statute prohibits those who fall under its purview from being eligible for parole until at least 85% of their sentence has been served and even after that there is no guarantee of release on parole. Since these crimes are already serious offenses with lengthy prison sentences, that can mean you are sitting in prison for years if not decades without hope of mitigating your situation. It is imperative that if you are facing down charges that NERA would apply to that you get expert legal assistance.
Crimes That Fall Under NERA
The No Early Release Act (NERA) only applies to a group of first and second degree crimes. No third or fourth degree indictable offenses are subject to NERA. The following are the crimes that are subject to NERA:
- Aggravated Manslaughter
- Vehicular Homicide
- Aggravated Assault
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Arson
- Burglary in the Second Degree
- Firearm Trafficking
- Racketeering in the First Degree
- Strict Liability for Drug Induced Deaths
- TerrorismProduction or Possession of Chemical, Biological or Radiological Weapons or Devices
- Causing or Permitting a Child to Engage in a Prohibit Sexual Act
- Booby Trapping a Drug Manufacturing or Distribution Facility
- Disarming a Law Enforcement Officer
Note that NERA provisions are mandatory for these crimes. Individuals charged with “attempting to commit” or “conspiring to commit” these crimes also trigger the NERA statute.
Normally, prison terms are usually much shorter than the court imposed sentence. The parole period for first degree crimes generally is 5 years while for second degree crimes it is usually 3 years. So someone sentenced to 10 years can be out in 5 years or less depending on the circumstances. However, for crimes subject to NERA the punishments scale up drastically as,
for example, you must serve 8.5 years of a 10 year sentence before you even become eligible for parole.
Avoiding NERA Charges in New Jersey
At Schneider Freiberger, we understand the factors that make up cases that potentially involve NERA. It is daunting facing down the potentially long prison sentences that come with these cases. If you or a loved one is facing down a case that is subject to the NERA provisions, do not hesitate to contact us. We can answer the questions you have and work with you to put together a defense that can stop the courts from enacting harsh, life-altering penalties.