NERA stands for “No Early Release Act.” NERA was a bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature. Governor Jon Corzine signed it into law on June 9, 1997. It took effect that same day. Its statutory reference is N.J.S. 2C:43-7.2.

The misguided philosophy of NERA is that the interests of society are best served by imposing longer and longer periods of imprisonment for persons convicted of certain crimes. This misguided philosophy is not unique to New Jersey. Quite the contrary, it parallels a national trend. Thus, as reported by The Sentencing Project:

The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails -- a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.

Here is the full text of NERA:

2C:43-7.2. Eligibility for parole; persons convicted of certain violent crimes

a. A court imposing a sentence of incarceration for a crime of the first or second degree enumerated in subsection d. of this section shall fix a minimum term of 85% of the sentence imposed, during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.

b. The minimum term required by subsection a. of this section shall be fixed as a part of every sentence of incarceration imposed upon every conviction of a crime enumerated in subsection d. of this section, whether the sentence of incarceration is determined pursuant to N.J.S.2C:43-6, N.J.S.2C:43-7, N.J.S.2C:11-3 or any other provision of law, and shall be calculated based upon the sentence of incarceration actually imposed. The provisions of subsection a. of this section shall not be construed or applied to reduce the time that must be served before eligibility for parole by an inmate sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration. Solely for the purpose of calculating the minimum term of parole ineligibility pursuant to subsection a. of this section, a sentence of life imprisonment shall be deemed to be 75 years.

c. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary and in addition to any other sentence imposed, a court imposing a minimum period of parole ineligibility of 85 percent of the sentence pursuant to this section shall also impose a five-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the first degree, or a three-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the second degree. The term of parole supervision shall commence upon the completion of the sentence of incarceration imposed by the court pursuant to subsection a. of this section unless the defendant is serving a sentence of incarceration for another crime at the time he completes the sentence of incarceration imposed pursuant to subsection a., in which case the term of parole supervision shall commence immediately upon the defendant's release from incarceration. During the term of parole supervision the defendant shall remain in release status in the community in the legal custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and shall be supervised by the State Parole Board as if on parole and shall be subject to the provisions and conditions of section 3 of P.L.1997, c. 117 (C.30:4-123.51b).

d. The court shall impose sentence pursuant to subsection a. of this section upon conviction of the following crimes or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any of these crimes:

(1) N.J.S.2C:11-3, murder;

(2) N.J.S.2C:11-4, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter;

(3) N.J.S.2C:11-5, vehicular homicide;

(4) subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:12-1, aggravated assault;

(5) subsection b. of section 1 of P.L.1996, c. 14 (C.2C:12-11), disarming a law enforcement officer;

(6) N.J.S.2C:13-1, kidnapping;

(7) subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:14-2, aggravated sexual assault;

(8) subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:14-2 and paragraph (1) of subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:14-2, sexual assault;

(9) N.J.S.2C:15-1, robbery;

(10) section 1 of P.L.1993, c. 221 (C.2C:15-2), carjacking;

(11) paragraph (1) of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:17-1, aggravated arson;

(12) N.J.S.2C:18-2, burglary;

(13) subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:20-5, extortion;

(14) subsection b. of section 1 of P.L.1997, c. 185 (C.2C:35-4.1), booby traps in manufacturing or distribution facilities;

(15) N.J.S.2C:35-9, strict liability for drug induced deaths;

(16) section 2 of P.L.2002, c. 26 (C.2C:38-2), terrorism;

(17) section 3 of P.L.2002, c. 26 (C.2C:38-3), producing or possessing chemical weapons, biological agents or nuclear or radiological devices;

(18) N.J.S.2C:41-2, racketeering, when it is a crime of the first degree;

(19) subsection i. of N.J.S.2C:39-9, firearms trafficking ; or

(20) paragraph (3) of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:24-4, causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act, knowing that the act may be reproduced or reconstructed in any manner, or be part of an exhibition or performance.

e. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2001, c. 129).

NERA, although sadistic and socially insane, is politically popular. Sensationalist journalism and fan-the-flames radio personalities inspire lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key sentiments. These sentiments are short sighted. They are also counterproductive. Over forty percent of persons sentenced to prison are reincarcerated within three years of release. A large part of that rate must be attributed to inhumane conditions foisted by a “corrections” system geared more to punishment than rehabilitation. New Jersey has so much to gain by developing the potential of all of its citizens.

New Jersey NERA lawyers for criminal defensePersons charged with offenses that carry NERA sentences need immediate skilled legal defense. Lawyers at the Law Offices of Allan Marain have been successfully defending individuals charged with such offenses since long before NERA was even enacted. If you or someone you love is faced with a NERA-designated crime, call them. Time is of the essence. They can help.

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Counsellors at Law in the Law Offices of Allan Marain, located in New Brunswick, represent clients throughout Central and Northern New Jersey. That includes Asbury Park, Bedminster, Belleville, Bergenfield, Berkeley Heights, Bernards Township, Bernardsville, Bogota, Bound Brook, Branchburg, Brick, Bridgewater, Clifton, Clinton, Closter, Cranbury, Cranford, Cresskill, Deal, Demarest, Denville, Dover, Dumont, Dunellen, East Brunswick, East Rutherford, East Windsor, Edison, Elizabeth, Emerson, Englewood, Englishtown, Ewing, Franklin Township, Freehold, Garfield, Garwood, Hackensack, Highland Park, Hillsborough, Hillsdale, Hillside, Jersey City, Kearny, Kenilworth, Lakewood, Lawrence Township, Mahwah, Manville, Marlboro, Matawan, Metuchen, Middlesex Borough, Monroe, Mountainside, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Nutley, Old Bridge, Paramus, Parsippany, Paterson, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Plainfield, Plainsboro, Point Pleasant, Princeton, Rahway, Raritan, Readington, Red Bank, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Ridgewood, Robbinsville, Rockaway, Rocky Hill, Roselle, Roselle Park, Rutherford, Sayreville, Scotch Plains, Seabright, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, Secaucus, Shrewsbury, Somerville, South Amboy, South Bound Brook, South Brunswick, South Orange, South Plainfield, South River, Sparta, Spotswood, Summit, Teaneck, Tenafly, Toms River, Trenton, Union, Wall, Warren, Washington, Watchung, West Windsor, Westfield, Woodbridge, and other communities in Bergen County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County. They handle criminal matters in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. They are available to handle matters in the United States Supreme Court.

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