Due to the nature of the crimes, weapons offenses often have serious penalties associated with them. The Graves Act exists to provide mandatory minimum sentencing in these situations.
Not only does it help judges when accepting any plea bargains associated with firearm-related crimes, but it also helps ensure a mandatory amount of prison time.
The New Jersey Courts discusses and goes into clarification of the Graves Act. The first thing it discusses is the mandatory minimum sentence. This ensures that the judge cannot go below a certain amount of prison time when sentencing a person. Current standards set this number at 42 months, or at least half of the sentence imposed by the court, defaulting to the higher number. For fourth-degree felonies, this number is only 18 months. The person cannot get parole during this time.
It also handles plea bargains, a tool that some people use to get a lighter sentence. The Graves Act lets a judge dealing with a plea bargain approve agreements that dismiss any applicable charge, with a caveat. The prosecutor must prove that it is necessary for the defendant’s cooperation, that there is not enough evidence to prove a charge, or if the prosecutor can show that a potential period of conviction lasts as long as the parole ineligibility period.
Mandatory minimum sentencing does still apply in instances where plea bargains get involved, though. Thus, it is important for a person facing these charges to have a full understanding of the impact of the Graves Act on their future.