State v. James Thomas, N.J. Super. (App. Div. 2007)
Docket No. A-6422-04T4
Held: In this cross-appeal, the Appellate Division addressed and rejected two constitutional challenges to the Attorney General’s Brimage Guidelines. The first Brimage issue raised by the State was whether the trial court erred by imposing a lower sentence than that negotiated between the State and defendant pursuant to the Brimage Guidelines and based on the court's belief that the agreement violated defendant's constitutional rights because it imposed a greater sentence for having invoked his right to a suppression hearing. The Appellate Division held that the trial court erred in imposing the lesser sentence. Specifically, the Appellate Division rejected the trial court's reasoning that defendant has been "penalized" for exercising his constitutional right to file a motion to suppress. The Appellate Division reasoned that prosecutors may . . . reasonably consider [the] early disposition of cases as an important law-enforcement objective when entering into plea agreements with defendants.
The second Brimage issue, raised by defendant, was whether the Brimage Guidelines, which were promulgated by the Attorney General to address negotiated-sentence agreements violate the principles of Blakely v.
Washington and State v. Natale. The Appellate Division determined that the Brimage Guidelines do not violate the recent cases affecting
sentencing. Having negotiated a particular sentence with the prosecutor, defendant waived the right to have a jury find the facts necessary to support that sentence. The Appellate Division noted further that defendant did not receive a sentence greater than the "presumptive" or mid-range term because of the prosecutor's reliance on any aggravating or
enhancing factor. Rather, defendant received the maximum sentence solely because of the timing of the plea.
State v. Eliezer Thomas, N.J. Super. (App. Div. 2007)
Docket No. A-3152-04T5
Held: In this appeal, the Appellate Division relied on the overwhelming weight of federal authority to conclude that the right to a jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment does not bar a sentencing judge from determining the amount of restitution in a criminal case.
United States Supreme Court
James v. United States, U.S. (2007)
Held: In this appeal, by a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled against Alphonso James, a Florida man with three prior felony convictions, including one for attempted burglary. As long as an offense presents a serious potential risk of injury to another person, it satisfies the requirements of the Armed Career Criminal Act, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. Attempted burglary under Florida law satisfies the requirement, Alito added. In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the boundaries of the act are "ill-defined" and that the Court's majority failed to provide guidance that can be applied consistently by the hundreds of district judges that impose sentences every day.