Burglary Punishment Must Fit Crime Not Criminal
- June 23, 2014
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In State v. Nieves, Eric Nieves was charged in 4 residential burglaries and related crimes. The jury found him guilty of four burglaries (N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2); three thefts (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3); dealing in stolen property (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7.1b); receiving stolen property (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7) and conspiracy with codefendants (N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2, :18-2, :20-7.1). Nieves was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment with 150 months of parole ineligibility. On appeal, the appellate division affirmed the convictions but vacated the sentence and returned to the court below for resentencing based on the factors set forth in State v. Yarbough, 100 N.J. 627 (1985). On appeal, Nieves objected to the jury instructions regarding certain lesser included offenses and complicity. Pursuant to State v. Singleton, 211, N.J. 157, 182 (2012), “if the defendant did not object to the charge when given, there is a presumption the charge was not error and unlikely to prejudice defendant’s case.” Prior to instructing the jury, the judge advised the attorneys of the intended charges and defense counsel gave his assent to both charging decisions. Defendant then bears the burden of showing plain error having a clear capacity of producing and unjust result R. 2:10-2 and the burden was not met. The Appellate Division found defendant’s claim of error in the jury instruction on accomplice liability to have insufficient merit and affirmed all convictions. With regard to the custodial sentence, the defendant was sentenced on each of the 10 third degree crimes and received an aggregate sentence of 25 years with 12 1/2 years of parole ineligibility. Defendant did not deny his lengthy criminal history and was aware he qualified as a persistent offender but Nieves argued that the courts extensive reliance on his criminal history was inappropriate. In Yarbough, the court set forth the fact that “punishment should fit the crime, not the criminal, and that there should be a predictable degree of uniformity in sentencing.” 100 N.J. at 630. State v. Miller, 205 N.J. 109 (2011) the New Jersey Supreme Court enumerated the Yarbough factors as modified by statute and offered guidance for appellate review of consecutive sentences. The Appellate Division found the discussion of Yarbough factors by the court below to be too cursory to permit adequate review. Further, any conspiracy conviction must be merged with the underlying completed crime. Burglary charges are not often lightly sentenced as they involve the possibility of great physical harm when the intruder and the owner or dweller accidentally meet and both act in fear. If you are facing burglary charges, you should seek experienced criminal defense counsel immediately. For more information about burglary, theft, robbery or other serious criminal charges in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.