STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. DONNELL W. ANCRUM A-0932-16T2The court granted the State's leave to appeal from an illegal sentence. Defendant was charged with second-degree robbery, second-degree burglary, second-degree aggravated assault (serious bodily injury) and third-degree aggravated assault (significant bodily injury). After indicating the assault charges would merge into the robbery under the facts of the case and the effect of the mergers would be defendant's eligibility for special probation, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14 (the Statute), the judge accepted defendant's guilty pleas to all four counts of the indictment. At sentencing, over the State's continued objection, the judge sentenced defendant to special probation, conditioned on his entry into, and completion of, Drug Court.
The court reversed, concluding that although the 2012 amendment to the Statute made defendants convicted of second- degree robbery and burglary eligible for special probation, the Legislature intended to continue to bar a defendant convicted of aggravated assault from receiving such a sentence. Similar to those cases in which the Legislature clearly intended certain mandatory sentences survive merger, a conviction for one of the Statute's disqualifying offenses survives merger and bars defendant's sentence to special probation