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Davis v. Heil

Decided: January 31, 1975.


Carton, Crane and Kole. The opinion of the court was delivered by Carton, P.J.A.D.


This case presents another challenge on equal protection grounds to the New Jersey parole system as it affects inmates of county correctional institutions.

Joseph Davis is currently serving a one-year term in the Hudson County Penitentiary to which he was sentenced on March 25, 1974 for possession, and possession with intent to distribute, of a controlled dangerous substance. On April 15 of that year he was sentenced for atrocious assault and battery to a term of 18 months in the Mercer County Correction Center, to be served consecutively to the Hudson County term.

Davis, on April 18, 1974, requested the State Parole Board to consider him for parole upon completion of the one-year Hudson County sentence. The Parole Board declined the request by letter of April 26, 1974, advising that aggregation of sentences to determine parole eligibility pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.10 was not permitted for inmates of county institutions. The Parole Board further advised him that he could not be considered for parole from the Mercer County sentence because that sentence was to a county workhouse from which there can be no parole under N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.35.

Considering this denial to be a final action by a state agency from which an appeal will lie, R. 2:2-3(a), Davis filed this appeal. His claim that he has been deprived of equal protection focuses on the application of two provisions of the statutory parole system. He first challenges the application of N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.35 to deny parole eligibility to county workhouse inmates sentenced to more than a year while extending eligibility to similarly sentenced county

penitentiary prisoners. He also attacks the application of N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.10. That provision denies inmates of county institutions serving consecutive sentences of more than one year any right to aggregation of such sentences for the purpose of determining parole eligibility while extending that opportunity to similarly sentenced prisoners in state institutions.

New Jersey's correctional system has evolved in piecemeal fashion over the years so that today it encompasses a wide range of institutions of different purposes and under diverse jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, the parole system which has developed to serve inmates of these correctional institutions recognizes these historical distinctions and varies its treatment of inmates according to the institution to which they are confined. This court has reviewed in some detail the complex workings of the parole and correctional system in the recent case of Bonilla v. Heil, 126 N.J. Super. 538 (App. Div. 1974). We need sketch here only those elements of the system having direct application to the present case.

Of major significance in the present case is the fact that a court may select from among several institutions in sentencing an adult male offender convicted of a crime. Under N.J.S.A. 2A:164-15 the general requirement is that sentences of less than one year be served in county institutions, sentences of greater to be served in the State Prison. However, under a series of exceptions set forth in the statute, sentences of from one year to 18 months may be served in a county workhouse, in a county penitentiary or in the State Prison, at the discretion of the sentencing court.

Sentences to State Prison are for maximum and minimum terms, N.J.S.A. 2A:164-7. State Prison inmates become eligible for parole upon completion of the minimum sentences or one-third of the maximum, whichever is less, N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.10. Those with prior offenses must serve proportionately longer periods, N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.12.



Parole is authorized for inmates of county institutions under N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.35, which provides, in relevant part:

The one-year requirement of this statutory provision has been construed to mean an "adjusted year of the term" with reductions for good conduct and work credits. See Bonilla v. Heil, supra, 126 N.J. Super. at 550, which holds that the one-year minimum requirement was valid even though some ...

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