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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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How is a Sentence Determined?

Many defendants are surprised to learn that the judge, not the jury, determines the punishments if he or she is found guilty of a crime. In federal cases, Title 18 of the U.S.C. Part II, Criminal Procedure, and Chapters 227/232 govern the defendant’s sentencing in a federal court. New Jersey’s Constitution and statutes provide the frameworks for sentencing.

The court must also consider mitigating and aggravating circumstances, however, in sentencing a person convicted of a crime in New Jersey. For instance, most crimes are detailed in statutes or in the state constitution. These laws generally specify proper punishments.

For instance, if the statute specifies that violation constitutes a misdemeanor crime that’s punishable by a maximum fine of $500 or a maximum jail term of 30 days (or both), the judge then has the range of punishments.

In New Jersey, the laws concerning these criteria for consideration are described under NJ Rev Stat § 2C:44-1 (2013). At that time, he or she must consider the mitigating or aggravating circumstances to discern the proper punishment.

The sentencing of a 27-year-old in New Jersey demonstrates aggravating circumstances the judge considered in rendering a sentence for the murder of an opposing gang member and father of two. The prosecutor recommended a 55-year sentence because the defendant bragged about killing the other man. They argued the act was premeditated and “an assassination.”

Ultimately, the judge sentenced the man to 42 years behind bars. He’s parole-eligible after serving a minimum 35 years of the sentence.


Many factors are considered in sentencing an offender in New Jersey. All things considered, it’s very important to reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights. Contact The Law Offices of John W. Tumelty, New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Criminal Trial Attorney, to schedule an initial case evaluation.

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