The Brimage Guidelines in New Jersey Drug Cases

Assorted illegal drugsIn 1998, in State v. Brimage, the New Jersey Supreme Court set forth guidelines governing mandatory prison sentences for conviction of or pleading to certain drug crimes in the state. The court found that prosecutors had too much control over the sentencing of defendants in certain drug cases, often negotiating lesser terms at time of sentencing. The court required that the state attorney general establish guidelines so that there was greater uniformity in sentencing. These guidelines are now generally referred to as the “Brimage guidelines.”

As a general rule, the imposition of the Brimage guidelines has dramatically reduced the instances where a defendant obtains a non-custodial disposition, or a shorter sentence, at the time of sentencing. The guidelines are most often applied in fairly specific situations:

  • Convictions involving school zone drug crimes
  • Conviction for providing controlled substances to a minor
  • Second or repeat drug convictions, either for possession or distribution
  • Drug convictions related to street gang activity

If you have pled to or been convicted on a charge that falls under the Brimage guidelines, the prosecutor in your case must complete a worksheet to determine whether the plea offer or sentencing is appropriate, as well as whether or not there is eligibility for parole. New Jersey law does, however, give judges some discretion in sentencing in school zone drug crime convictions, based on evidence involving:

  • Whether school was open or in session at the time of the arrest
  • The location of the crime and the reasonable likelihood that children would have witnessed drug-related activity
  • The defendant’s prior criminal record.

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I offer a free phone consultation to every prospective client. For a complimentary evaluation of your case, contact the Law Offices of Gregg A. Wisotsky online or call me at 973-241-7468. I will come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary. All major credit cards are accepted.

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