A bill that would end mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent crimes was conditionally vetoed by the governor at the same time the attorney general issued a directive that would end them for many of the same crimes. S-3456 (Cunningham)/A-5385 (Chiaravalloti) was sent back to the Legislature last week for consideration of amendments. The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) supported the bill’s passage to end the “highest disparity in the nation between incarceration of people of color and white people,” the Association wrote in a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy.
The bill seemed to be moving to the governor’s desk, following the recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission that called for the elimination of certain mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment. An amendment that would eliminate minimums for official misconduct crimes slowed the bill, drawing much debate about the inclusion of these crimes. The NJSBA urged the bill’s swift passage with or without the amendment in favor of “giving judges discretion and a greater range of alternatives to impose sentences that fit the crime and consider the circumstances of each defendant at the time of sentencing.”