The difference between 3 years and 5 years is just a couple of months
In the normal world, the difference between 3 years and 5 years is 24 months. However, when it comes to New Jersey Parole Guidelines, this difference could be just a couple of months, if not just weeks. While the parole guidelines are published and thus fairly consistent, you might want to research this issue for yourself just to make sure.
I use 3 years and 5 years because in New Jersey, 3 years in prison is the typical plea offer. If the defendant takes the case to trial and loses, a skilled defense attorney can still work to get the client a 3 year prison term but even if that is not possible, a 5 year term is usually within reach. Distribution of child pornography is a second degree offense and most defendants come from a decent background with no prior criminal record. Thus, a 5 year minimum term is usually easy to reach. However, an application can be made that there are enough mitigating factors available that would cause the court to sentence the defendant as a third degree offender and thus give him/her a 3 year term. That is more difficult to do of course and it should be assumed that the defendant will receive a 5 year term.
In either scenario, there are the defendant will be on Megan’s Law which may be worse than the prison term itself. Thus, unless there is not one possible defense at trial, I urge all attorneys to seriously consider taking these cases to trial. We need to fight back against the system and learn from each other. New case law and innovative trial tactics will only be created by taking more child pornography cases to trial. In my view, the chance of no Megan’s law and no prison is worth risking just a couple of extra months in prison.