Charged with a Crime in New Jersey?
Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Charges and Penalties
A criminal conviction can drastically affect the rest of your life. You may face the possibility of jail time, fines and other penalties, and your reputation may be damaged. Additionally, a conviction may prevent you from finding work and/or housing in the future. Since so much hangs in the balance, you should always work a criminal defense lawyer with a history of success. Even innocence is not always an ironclad defense – law enforcement and prosecutors may not care about your side of the story, but will simply focus on getting a conviction. An attorney can work to enforce your rights and expose any misconduct or negligence that may have led to your arrest. In many cases, a good lawyer can get your charges or penalties reduced, minimizing the negative impact on your life.
If you have been arrested or someone you know was taken into police custody, then you should find a lawyer as quickly as possible. No matter what kinds of charges you face, from a misdemeanor to a felony, finding an attorney you trust is essential. To speak with a local New Jersey criminal lawyer today, consult our local listings.
What Are the Basic Types of Criminal Charges?
The type of criminal charge you face may vary depending on the nature of the alleged crime. Although each state has its own specific classifications, the general types of charges are:
- Infraction. An infraction is the least serious type of charge you can face. In fact, some states handle infractions as civil cases, rather than criminal cases. Traffic violations and other minor offenses usually fall into this category. Jail is generally not a possibility for infractions, so you are not entitled to a jury trial and the state will usually not appoint you a lawyer. However, you can still hire one of your own.
- Petty offense. Some states categorize low-level criminal conduct as petty offenses. This may include illegal acts like gambling, disturbing the peace, public indecency, pollution violations and theft of items of low value.
- Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a more serious charge and county courts typically handle these cases. Common misdemeanor charges include assault, criminal trespass, theft and certain drug crimes, including possession and sale.
- Felony. This is the most serious type of criminal charge and state and/or federal courts usually handle these cases. Common felonies include murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, vehicular homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and certain drug crimes.
In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution to reduce the severity of the charges you face. If the court reduces your charge from a low-level felony to a misdemeanor, for example, then the repercussions you face may be much less serious.
What Is the Penalty for a Misdemeanor (PD Offenses) in New Jersey?
Each state has its own system for classifying misdemeanor and felony charges, and penalties may vary as well. In New Jersey. crimes are not categorized as felonies and misdemeanors but as indictable crimes (roughly equivalent to felonies), disorderly person offenses, and petty disorderly person offenses (roughly equivalent to misdemeanors)
Regarding the two “misdemeanor”-equivalent charges:
- Petty Disorderly Person Offenses are the least serious criminal offense in New Jersey for which a person can be sentenced to time in jail. Petty disorderly offenses include disorderly conduct and harassment. These offenses are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500.
- Disorderly Person Offenses are more serious offenses than petty disorderly person offenses and include possession of marijuana under 50 grams, assault, shoplifting, and resisting arrest. These offenses are punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.
What Is the Penalty for a Felony (Indictable Offenses) in New Jersey?
Felony-level offenses under New Jersey law are referred to as “indictable crimes”; meaning that, to be charged with the crime, a grand jury must review the case and find that there is enough evidence to support a formal charge and require the defendant to stand trial for the crime. Indictable offenses are classified by degrees, from 1st degree through 4th. Like misdemeanors, each state has its own system for what qualifies as a felony and what penalties may result from a conviction. In New Jersey, possible felony charges and penalties include:
- First degree crimes. This can include activity such as murder, manslaughter, and rape. A court can impose a basic prison sentence between 10 and 20 years, or between 20, 25 or 30 years, and life depending on the circumstances of the crime. A court can also fine the person convicted of a first degree crime up to $200,000.
- Second degree crimes. This can include sex crimes, aggravated arson, burglary, kidnapping, white collar crimes, and drug crimes. For a second degree felony, the court can impose a prison sentence between 5 and 10 years and a fine up to $150,000.
- Third degree crimes. This can include arson, some robbery offenses, possession of controlled substances, and some driving under the influence (DUI) offenses. A court can sentence a defendant convicted of a third degree crime to a prison sentence between 3 and 5 years and a fine up to $15,000.
- Fourth degree crimes. This can include include stalking, some robbery offenses, some DUI offenses, and forgery. A defendant convicted of a fourth degree crime faces up to eighteen months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Additionally, some crimes are classified at different degrees depending on whether the crime is a first or subsequent offense. For instance, stalking is a fourth degree crime for the first offense but a subsequent offense of stalking would evolve the charge to a third degree crime.
Need a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer? We Can Help
If you are facing any level of criminal charge, then a qualified lawyer may be essential to protecting your future. Additionally, if someone you know is currently in police custody, then you may wish to reach out to a lawyer on his or her behalf. To find a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer in your area, then consult our attorney listings. If you have general question about criminal law or certain charges, then do not hesitate to ask the lawyers.