Degree of Crimes in New Jersey
In New Jersey, crimes are classified as indictable offenses or disorderly persons offenses. Indictable offenses involve potential sentences of more than 6 months in state prison, which many other states refer to as felonies, whereas municipal disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly offenses are equivalent to misdemeanors and punishable by a maximum of 6 months in county jail. Indictable crimes are separated into four different degrees of increasing severity and penalties: fourth degree, third degree, second degree, and first degree. Certain factors can raise the degree, like if the offense is a subsequent crime or other aggravating factors exist. For instance, an offense that would typically be considered simple assault (a disorderly persons offense) may be elevated to aggravated assault (an indictable crime) if the victim is a law enforcement officer.
Regardless of the degree of criminal charges you’re facing in New Jersey, the penalties associated with a conviction can be severe. You may be sentenced to jail or prison time, forced to pay significant fines, ordered to serve probation, perform community service, and be left with a criminal record that follows you into the next phase of your life. The experienced criminal defense lawyers at Proetta & Oliver understand that you don’t need the consequences of a criminal conviction hanging over your head. We will assemble a customized defense strategy tailored to suit the evidence in your case and work tirelessly to deliver the best possible outcome. With offices in Edison, our attorneys regularly appear in courts throughout Middlesex County and New Jersey, including in New Brunswick, Piscataway, Woodbridge, Monroe Township, and Carteret. For additional information, contact us online or call our Edison office at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
Indictable Crime Degrees in NJ
There are four levels of indictable criminal offenses in New Jersey. When grading a felony-level crime, it will fall into one of the four degrees. The spectrum runs from fourth degree, which has the relatively lowest penalties, to first degree where the penalties are most severe. The degree of the crime is important for determining the venue where the case is adjudicated, the legal procedure the case will follow, and the potential consequences for sentencing. Below is a detailed explanation of the four degree of indictable offenses in New Jersey.
- Fourth degree indictable crimes include forgery, stalking, and violation of a restraining order. Penalties for fourth degree offenses can include up to 18 months of imprisonment and up to $10,000 fines.
- Examples of third degree crimes include the majority of drug possession offenses, burglary, terroristic threats, and shoplifting goods valued at $500 to $75,000. Penalties for third degree offenses include 3 to 5 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $15,000.
- Second degree crimes in New Jersey include aggravated arson, robbery, sexual assault, and gun charges. If convicted, offenders of second degree crimes face five to ten years of imprisonment and up to $150,000 in fines.
- Crimes that are classified as first degree offenses include armed robbery, murder, distribution of drugs in large quantities, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated sexual assault. First degree crimes include penalties of 10 to 20 years of imprisonment, with some crimes like first degree murder carrying potential imprisonment of 30 years.
Individuals charged with indictable crimes in New Jersey have a right to indictment by a grand jury and a right to trial by jury. The right to a grand jury indictment is important because it allows a group of New Jersey citizens to hear the allegations against you and determine if there is sufficient evidence to formally charge you with the crime. A jury trial is also valuable because it provides checks and balances in the criminal justice system and it is a constitutional right. In general, the right to a jury provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate that there is insufficient evidence to support an indictment and/or a criminal conviction.
Disorderly Persons Offenses
Disorderly persons offenses are categorized as disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. Municipal disorderly persons offenses include simple assault, theft (less than $200 property value), and shoplifting (less than $200 property value), all with penalties of up to 6 months of imprisonment and fines of up to $1,000. Petty disorderly persons offenses include disorderly conduct and harassment and carry penalties of up to 30 days of imprisonment and up to $500.
While the potential penalties for disorderly persons offenses may be less than those for indictable crimes, individuals charged with disorderly persons offenses do not have a right to a grand jury indictment or a jury trial. Disorderly persons cases are heard and decided in the local municipal court where the charges were issued. A single municipal court judge will hear a disorderly persons case prior to making a determination of innocence or guilt. The judge will also determine the appropriate sentence if you are charged with a DP or PDP offense in New Jersey. You are entitled to have a criminal defense attorney representing you in municipal court, which is critical if you hope to avoid a conviction.
Indictable Crime Attorneys in Middlesex County, NJ
If you have been charged with a crime in Middlesex County, New Jersey, being represented by an experienced criminal defense lawyer is crucial. Even the lowest level crime in New Jersey, a petty disorderly persons offense, carries potential jail time and a criminal record. The attorneys at Proetta & Oliver are available to review your case and help you develop the best strategy to fight the charges against you. Contact us anytime at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation.