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State v. Franklin

February 26, 2003

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RONALD L. FRANKLIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

This appeal requires the Court to resolve whether juveniles are entitled to the same rights as adults with respect to "gap-time" credit and, if so, whether gap-time applies to a period of imprisonment served after a parole revocation.

The gap-time statute provides that a defendant who is sentenced to terms of imprisonment for two separate offenses imposed on different sentencing dates is entitled to gap-time credit for the period he serves from the date of the first sentence to the date of the second sentence where both offenses occurred before the first sentence. N.J.S.A. 2C:44-5b(2). The purpose of the statute is to ensure that a defendant's sentence is not lengthened because of delays in the prosecution of the offense underlying the second sentence.

Ronald L. Franklin committed three crimes within five days of each other. He was arrested on July 16, 1992 in Asbury Park for possession of heroin, an act of delinquency which, if committed by an adult, would constitute third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance. On July 22, 1992, he was arrested for two separate robberies he had committed one day earlier in Asbury Park, acts of delinquency which, if committed by an adult, would constitute second-degree robbery. Franklin was seventeen years old at the time of all three offenses.

On August 14, 1992, Franklin entered a plea of guilty to the heroin offense at a delinquency proceeding in the Chancery Division, Family Part, and was sentenced to an indeterminate term of incarceration not to exceed two years. That term of incarceration was to be served at the New Jersey State Training School for Boys and Girls at Jamesburg.

On September 24, 1992, on motion by the prosecutor, the Family Part waived jurisdiction on the robbery offenses, permitting Franklin to be prosecuted as an adult in the Law Division. Eight months later, on May 20, 1993, Franklin was indicted by a grand jury for the robbery offenses.

On June 24, 1993, Franklin was placed on parole for the juvenile heroin offense. On July 30, 1993, he was arrested for various offenses, including possession of cocaine with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of school property. Franklin was released on bail and, on August 9, 1993, he was again arrested and incarcerated for violating conditions of his parole on the juvenile heroin offense, specifically, for failing to maintain employment and failing to refrain from possessing or using a controlled dangerous substance. At a hearing in November 1993, Franklin did not protest his parole violation, his parole was revoked, and a new parole eligibility date on the heroin offense was set for June 1, 1994.

On April 28, 1994, Franklin pled guilty to the robbery charges and the 1993 distribution charge. The State recommended that he receive seven-year concurrent prison terms on the robbery charges, to run concurrent to the time he was serving on the heroin offense after revocation of parole, and a five-year term with a two-year period of parole disqualification on the distribution charge, to run consecutive to the robbery sentences and concurrent to the juvenile heroin offense. Franklin was released from prison on the juvenile heroin offense on May 26, 1994. He was sentenced on the robbery and distribution charges in accordance with the State recommendation on June 10, 1994.

Franklin filed a motion for post conviction relief seeking gap-time credit toward the robbery sentences for the time he served on the heroin offense before and after his parole revocation. The motion judge concluded that gap-time applied to a juvenile sentence, but only awarded Franklin 304 days of gap-time credit toward the robbery offenses, the period from the date of his sentence on the juvenile heroin offense until the date of his parole for that offense. The Appellate Division affirmed.

The Supreme Court granted Franklin's petition for certification.

HELD: Juveniles are entitled to the same gap-time credit as adults. Gap-time credit also applies to the period of imprisonment served on the first sentence after a parole revocation.

1. The gap-time credit statute is a constituent part of the Code of Criminal Justice, but the Juvenile Code is silent on the subject. However, the Legislature explicitly provided in the Juvenile Code that all defenses available to an adult and all rights guaranteed to adult criminal defendants are to be afforded to a juvenile. In a broad sense, "defenses available to an adult" may be deemed to encompass sentencing alternatives. The goal of gap-time credit - encouraging speedy disposition of multiple charges to ensure fairness in sentencing - is not a goal unique to the adult sentencing scheme. Our courts have not hesitated to export provisions of the Rules of Court or Code of Criminal Justice applicable to adults to expand the sentencing options of the Family Court in juvenile cases. (pp. 5- 15)

2. The Attorney General notes that the Juvenile Code provides for "incarceration" as a potential disposition, whereas under the Code of Criminal Justice, gap-time applies only to a defendant who has been sentenced to "imprisonment." The Attorney Genera l argues that this difference in terminology demonstrates a legislative intent to prohibit gap-time credit to juveniles. The Court is not persuaded by that analysis. The legislative history of the Juvenile Code reveals that the terms "incarceration" and "imprisonment" were used interchangeably and without distinction. Moreover, case law makes clear that the term "imprisonment" does not have the concrete, immutable meaning suggested by the Attorney General. The Court does not envision that granting gap-time to juveniles will detract from the policies, including the goal of rehabilitation, supporting the Juvenile Code. That a juvenile sentence may be shorter than an adult sentence should have no bearing on whether gap-time accrues while a juvenile is serving a term of incarceration because the harm caused by a delay in sentencing is the same. (pp. 15-18)

3. The Court also must determine whether Franklin is entitled to gap-time credit for the period he served in custody following his arrest on the violation of parole. The determination that a defendant has violated the conditions of parole results in the revocation of parole and the return of the defendant to custody to serve the remaining portion of his original sentence. It does not lead to the imposition of a new sentence, but to the continuation of the original sentence. The underlying purpose of the gap-time credit statute certainly applies to the period after a revocation of parole. There is no countervailing public policy rationale for denying gap-time credit for the period after parole revocation. (pp. 18-22)

The judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED, and the matter is REMANDED to the trial court for the calculation and award of gap-time credit consistent with this opinion.

JUSTICE VERNIERO has filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which JUSTICE COLEMAN joins. He agrees with the holding that applies gap-time credit to time served on a juvenile sentence, but concludes that an award of gap-time credit to a defendant in the face of parole revocation constitutes an unwarranted benefit not contemplated by the Legislature.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, and ZAZZALI join in JUSTICE ALBIN's opinion. JUSTICE VERNIERO filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which JUSTICE COLEMAN joins.

Argued October 8, 2002

ALBIN, J.

This case requires us to resolve whether juveniles are entitled to the same rights as adults with respect to "gap-time" credit and, if so, whether gap-time applies to a period of imprisonment served after a parole revocation. The gap-time statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:44-5b(2), is found in the Code of Criminal Justice, but there is no equivalent provision in the Code of Juvenile Justice (Juvenile Code). A defendant who is sentenced to terms of imprisonment for two separate offenses imposed on different sentencing dates is entitled to gap-time credit for the period he serves from the date of the first sentence to the date of the second sentence where both offenses occurred before the first sentence. A defendant loses the potential benefit of a concurrent sentence every day the second sentence is deferred. The purpose of N.J.S.A. 2C:44-5b(2) is to ensure that a defendant's sentence is not lengthened because of delays in the prosecution of the offense underlying the second sentence.

We now hold that juveniles are entitled to the same equitable remedy as adults with respect to gap-time credit. We also conclude that gap-time credit applies to the period of imprisonment served on the first sentence after a parole revocation.

I.

Ronald L. Franklin committed three crimes within five days of each other. On July 16, 1992, Franklin was arrested in Asbury Park for possession of heroin, an act of delinquency which, if committed by an adult, would constitute third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1) (heroin offense). On July 22, 1992, he was arrested for two separate robberies he had committed one day earlier in Asbury Park, acts of delinquency which, if committed by an adult, would constitute ...


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