Weapons offenses can carry serious penalties. In New Jersey, lawmakers created the Graves Act to handle such crimes and provide mandatory minimum sentencing.
According to the New Jersey Courts, the Graves Act helps to ensure mandatory prison time and helps judges when accepting plea bargains associated with firearm charges.
The Graves Act mandates a mandatory minimum sentence, which means the least amount of prison time a judge can give for an offense. The current standards are half of the sentence the court imposes or at least 42 months. It will default with whichever is the greater of the two. If the charge is a fourth-degree felony, then the maximum guideline for sentencing is only 18 months. During this mandatory minimum time, the person is not eligible for parole.
A plea bargain allows a defendant to reduce charges, agree to a specific sentence or make other arrangements that would likely be better than if he or she went to trial and the court passed down the sentence. In plea deal situations, the Graves Act will allow a judge to approve an agreement that will dismiss an applicable charge only if the prosecutor assures the court it is necessary for the cooperation of the defendant, there is not enough evidence to prove the charge or the prosecutor can show the parole ineligibility period will be the same as if the person had faced conviction for the charge. The requirements also apply for downgraded charges.
The importance of understanding the Graves Act applies whether a person goes to trial or seeks a plea bargain because the mandatory minimums continue to apply in both situations. The court must follow the law for such crimes according to this act.