The New Jersey Supreme Court decided State v. Joe on March 7, 2017. The case is significant because it relates to the issue of jail credit, which is an important issue in any case where the sentence includes the imposition of a custodial term.
Briefly, the two types of credit that arise most frequently in criminal cases are jail credit and gap credit. By way of example, a defendant who has a single set of charges that are brought in a single indictment will be entitled to credit for any time spent in custody on those charges while the case is being resolved. This type of credit is generally referred to as jail credit. If the defendant is ultimately sentenced to a custodial term of five years with a three-year parole disqualifier, the jail credit will count against the three years, and the defendant will become parole eligible that much sooner. Jail credit is not to be confused with gap credit. Gap credit results when a defendant who has already been sentenced to a custodial term is subsequently sentenced again for different offenses committed before the earlier sentence. Here, the defendant receives credit at the second sentence for the portion of the term of imprisonment already served on the prior sentence. Whereas jail credit goes against the “bottom number” or parole ineligibility period, gap credit goes against the “top” or outside number. Jail credit is generally viewed as more valuable because it effectively brings a defendant closer to parole. (Anyone who seems confused by this brief explanation should not feel bad – credits are one of the most confusing subjects in New Jersey criminal procedure.)
In Joe, the defendant was arrested for drug offenses, but fled New Jersey. The court issued a bench warrant for his arrest. Joe was later arrested and charged with other offenses in New York State, and remained in custody on the New York charges from his arrest through sentencing, which was on February 13, 2012. New Jersey filed an interstate detainer with New York on August 12, 2011, but Joe was not transferred to New Jersey until he was sentenced on the New York charges. Joe resolved his New Jersey case by way of plea, and then requested jail credit for the time spent in pre-sentence custody in New York. The sentencing court denied this request.
Joe appealed his sentenced, seeking an award of the jail credit (236 days). The Appellate Division awarded him credit from the date the interstate detainer was lodged. That Court remanded the case for resentencing so that Joe could receive jail credit “for the time between the lodging of the detainer  and the date on which defendant was sentenced in New York.” The State sought Certification, and the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Appellate Division for reconsideration. The Appellate Division reaffirmed its decision.
Our Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court’s sentence. In sum, the Court held that defendants who are confined in another state on non-New Jersey criminal charges are not entitled to jail credit for time spent in pre-sentence custody against any sentence imposed on their New Jersey charges. Thus, if a defendant is in jail in another state and the confinement does not relate solely to their New Jersey charges, jail credit does not apply. Accordingly, because Joe was in custody in New York State on that State’s charges, he was not entitled to credits against his New Jersey sentence for time the spent in New York.
Criminal defense attorney James S. Friedman, Esq., represents defendants in criminal cases in the New Jersey Superior Court in all New Jersey counties; in all New Jersey municipal courts; in the federal district court in Newark, Trenton and Camden; in the New York State criminal courts in Manhattan and Brooklyn; and in the United States District Courts located in New York City. If you have been charged with a crime in any of these courts, contact us today to discuss your case and your defense.