Weapons Offense Merges Into Burglary Charge
- September 4, 2015
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Sherrone Robinson was charged with third-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated assault (N.J.S.A.. 2C:5-2; 2C:12-1); second-degree conspiracy to commit burglary (N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2, 2C:18-2); second-degree burglary (N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2); second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a); second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b); second-degree possession of a weapon by a convicted person (N.J.S.A. 2C:38-7); fourth-degree aggravated assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(4)); and third-degree hindering apprehension (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3b(1)). Robinson pled guilty to second-degree burglary and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in exchange for dismissal for the other charges. For the burglary the state recommended a 4 year prison term and concurrent 5 year term for the weapons offense. The burglary offense was subject to an eighty-five percent parole ineligibility period under the No Early Release Act (NERA) (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2) while the weapon offense carried a mandatory minimum term of three years pursuant to the Graves Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(c)). In State v. Robinson, Robinson later appealed the sentence arguing that the weapon possession was for the purpose of the burglary and should be merged therewith rather than included as a separate conviction and offense. In making his argument for merger, Robinson relied on State v. Tate, 216 N.J. 300, 302 (2013) (citing State v. Davis, 68 N.J. 69, 77 (1975)), which held that an accused committing a single offense cannot be punished as if they committed more than one offense. State v. Messino, 378 N.J. Super. 559, 585 (App. Div. 2005) provided an alternative analysis of N.J.S.A. 2C:1-8, regarding merger of offenses, which suggested a more “flexible approach” to merger wherein the elements of the crimes are considered. In State v. Diaz, 144 N.J. 628, 636 (1996), the court held that “when the only unlawful purpose in possession the [weapon] is to use it to commit the substantive offense, merger is required.” The NJ Appellate Division reviewed the record and noted that defense counsel stated the prison terms as set forth in the plea agreement, the judge then reviewed those terms with the defendant on the record and the defendant indicated a full understanding thereof. The Appellate Division decided that the defendant received the benefit of the plea bargain as his counsel negotiated the plea bargain with the State on his behalf. The Appellate Division remanded the matter for correction of the judgment of conviction to reflect merger of the convictions and a sentence of 5 years total of which 4 were subject to an 85 percent parole disqualifier under NERA. 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, weapons, assault, 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.