Newark, NJ asked in Criminal Law for New Jersey

Q: Can a judge give a lesser sentence at a bench trial then the prosecutors original plea offer?

This is my fifth misdemeanor shoplifting offense. The prosecutor offered 90 days jail time and would not consider a lesser no jail sentence. All of my misdemeanors including this one are over a year old and I have not been in trouble since. I have mental disabilities that caused the shopliftings but since have gotten it under control with extensive therapy and medication. I now work full-time and have gotten my life back together and not been in any trouble. I have five children that would go to state custody if I went to jail for any period of time. I have turned my life around dramatically.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Amber Forrester
Amber Forrester
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Trenton, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: Shoplifting is a bit unusual among NJ theft crimes in that it is subject to mandatory penalties, even though it tends to be a lower degree of indictable charge or even a disorderly persons like you are referring to. A third or subsequent shoplifting charge of any degree is subject to a penalty of not less than 90 days, so regardless of whether you plead guilty or go to trial and lose, if you’re found guilty of a shoplifting offense when you’ve had two or more previously means the 90 days has to be imposed. There may be an opportunity for an attorney to attempt to convince the prosecutor to allow you to plead to a different offense to avoid the mandatory penalty, but depending on what municipality you are in, that may be an uphill battle.

James A. Abate
James A. Abate
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Somerville, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: No. If you face a third or greater it carries mandatory jail. If the prosecutor won’t amend the charge so you escape the mandatory jail, the only option is to fight the charge at trial and win.

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