HILLSIDE — After more than three strikes, he's never coming out.

A man who spent a lifetime repeatedly committing crimes will now spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Timothy Chambers, 51, was sentenced Friday to life in prison for a 2015 robbery in this township.

The sentence is the harshest that a judge in this state can hand down — and some rapists and killers don't even get that much. But this was a result of New Jersey's rarely used "three strikes" law.

The law, championed by then-Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, was enacted in 1995 and requires judges to sentence defendants to life after their third conviction for a violent crime. Many states have similar laws, including California, which applies it to nonviolent offenses.

The 2015 robbery, in which Chambers struck the manager of the Prestige Auto Wash on Liberty Avenue over the head with his gun, counted as his third strike following convictions for two robberies in 1997 in Jersey City.

But court records show this would have been at least the fourth strike against Chambers if not for plea deals offered to him over the years.

In 1993, he was charged with first-degree robbery in Jersey City. But in 1995, he copped a plea to a fourth-degree weapons offense that dismissed the more serious charge and resulted in an 18-month sentence.

His New Jersey criminal record also includes convictions for drug dealing on school property in 1992 and 1989.

Prosecutors say Chambers and an accomplice walked into the car wash on March 17, 2015, and asked for $3 in change. Chambers followed the manager into his office, brandished a handgun and stole a bag of money after a struggle.

Chambers was arrested a month later. His accomplice remains at large and authorities have yet to identify him.

Chambers was convicted by a Union County jury in December.

The three-strikes law applies to violent crimes such as murder, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping and robbery.

Critics of the measure say that it denies judges discretion. In one case, a New Jersey man was sentenced to life in prison after an attempted robbery in which he brandished a toy gun and did not harm the victim. 

Parole is possible for convicts who are more than 70 years old and have served at least 35 years of their sentence.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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