SENATE, No. 256







Sponsored by:

Senator  THOMAS H. KEAN, JR.

District 21 (Morris, Somerset and Union)






     "The 10-20-Life Law."



     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.


An Act concerning prison sentencing for certain crimes committed with firearms and supplementing Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes.


     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:


     1.    This act shall be known and may be cited as "The 10-20-Life Law."


     2.    a. Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:39-4, N.J.S.2C:43-6,  N.J.S.2C:43-7 or any other law to the contrary,  upon a conviction for N.J.S.2C:11-3, N.J.S.2C:11-4, subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:12-1, N.J.S.2C:13-1, subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:14-2, subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:14-3, N.J.S.2C:15-1, N.J.S.2C:18-2, N.J.S.2C:29-5, N.J.S.2C:35-5 during the commission of which a person: (1) Possesses for an unlawful purpose a firearm or threatens the immediate use of a firearm against the person of another, an additional 10 years shall be added to his term of sentence or extended term of sentence during which he shall be ineligible for parole; (2) Intentionally discharges a firearm at or near  a person, an additional 20 years shall be added to his term of sentence or extended term of sentence during which he shall be ineligible for parole; or (3) Intentionally discharges a firearm so as to recklessly cause serious bodily injury as defined in N.J.S.2C:11-1 or death, a sentence or specific term or extended term between 25 years and life imprisonment, of which he shall serve a minimum term of 25 years before becoming eligible for parole, shall be added to his term of sentence or extended term of sentence.

     For the purposes of this section, a "firearm" means a firearm as defined in subsection  f. of N.J.S.2C:39-1, provided, however, it shall not include an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature.

     Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:1-8 or any other law to the contrary, a conviction arising under this act shall not merge with a conviction for a violation of any of the sections referred to in this subsection nor shall any conviction under those sections merge with a conviction under this section.  Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:44-5 or any other law to the contrary, the sentence imposed upon a violation of this act shall be ordered to be served consecutively to that imposed for any conviction for a violation of any of the sections  referred to in this section or a conviction for conspiracy or attempt to violate any of those sections.

     b.    As an alternative to incarceration, in extraordinary cases or circumstances, the court may grant probation for the conviction of crimes referred to in subsection a. of this act if imprisonment would result in a manifest denial of justice.  In such cases, the court shall indicate for the record the reason for not imposing the mandatory penalty.


     3.    The Attorney General shall establish a public education program concerning the purpose and provisions of this act, including, but not limited to, multilingual public service announcements, advertisements and billboards to assure the widespread dissemination of information.


     4.    There is appropriated to the Department of Law and Public Safety $500,000 to carry out the public education requirements of section 3 of this act.


     5.    This act shall take effect on the first day of the fifth month after enactment.





     This bill is named the "10-20-Life Law."  It calls for enhancements of existing penalties, including "Graves Act" penalties, for the use of firearms in specified crimes. 

     The bill requires that 10 years be added to the sentence of those who possess a firearm for an unlawful purpose or threaten the use of one against another person.  It would require that 20 years be added to a term for intentionally firing a gun at or near a person.  The bill also calls for an additional sentence of 25 years to life if the intentional firing of a gun recklessly causes serious bodily injury or death.  A "firearm" is defined as any handgun, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, automatic or semi-automatic rifle, or any gun, device or instrument in the nature of a weapon from which may be fired or ejected any solid projectable ball, slug, pellet, missile or bullet, or any gas, vapor or other noxious thing, by means of a cartridge or shell or by the action of an explosive or the igniting of flammable or explosive substances, but would exclude air guns and spring guns.

     These extended sentences, which would be served consecutively, would apply when a firearm is used during the commission of the following crimes: N.J.S.2C:11-3 (murder); N.J.S.2C:11-4 (manslaughter); subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:12-1 (aggravated assault);  N.J.S.2C:13-1 (kidnapping); subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:14-2 (aggravated sexual assault); subsection a of N.J.S.2C:14-3 (aggravated sexual criminal contact); N.J.S.2C:15-1 (robbery); N.J.S.2C:18-2 (burglary): N.J.S.2C:29-5 (escape); and N.J.S.2C:35-5 (manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing certain controlled dangerous substances).

     For example, if a person is convicted of robbery and is armed with or uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon such as a firearm, he would be subject to the penalty for a first degree crime, namely 10 to 20 years in prison.  Normally, a presumptive term of imprisonment of 15 years would be imposed.  If this presumptive term were imposed, the person would be sentenced to 15 years, plus 10 years under this bill or a total of 25 years.

     This bill also would appropriate $500,000 for an education campaign concerning the provisions and purpose of the bill.  It is designed as a deterrent in the hope that it might persuade criminals to think twice about using weapons.

     The bill is intended to serve as a powerful tool to protect the State's residents and appropriately incapacitate those who would use guns in crimes.  It is patterned on legislation enacted in Florida in 1999 and California in 1997.