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Serious crimes carry serious consequences. If you’ve been charged with a crime, the first thing you need to understand is that the prosecution is not on your side. Our criminal justice system is designed to be adversarial, meaning that they want a conviction, and will work against you to get it.
New Jersey criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer helps people face their criminal charges, for both minor offenses and serious crimes. She uses her knowledge, experience, and legal skills to help you get the best possible result because she knows this is your future is at stake. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law to schedule your free consultation by calling 215-712-1212.
Most people recognize the term “felony” – these are typically very serious crimes such as burglary, murder, or assault. However, New Jersey does not use the term “felony” – serious crimes in New Jersey are called “indictable offenses.” These offenses are also distinguished from “disorderly persons offenses,” which is the term New Jersey uses for what other states refer to as misdemeanors. Similar to felonies in other states, indictable offenses in New Jersey are typically punishable by a minimum jail sentence of one year.
These offenses are called “indictable” because you must be indicted by a grand jury in order to be charged. In other words, the prosecution must first bring the case to the grand jury for review and demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence to support a charge. If a majority of the grand jury finds that there is sufficient evidence, they will issue an indictment, the prosecution will formally file charges, and the case will proceed.
As in many other states, crimes are classified by different degrees in New Jersey. There are four degrees of indictable offenses under New Jersey law:
First degree crimes:
The crimes under each degree are just examples, and so your charges may not be listed. First-degree crimes are obviously the most serious offenses, while fourth-degree crimes are considered to be the least serious offenses. However, fourth-degree crimes are also sort of a catch-all – any crime that does not have a specified degree by statute is a fourth-degree crime.
If convicted of an indictable offense, you could be facing a prison sentence and harsh fines. The potential punishment will vary according to the degree of the underlying offense:
First degree offenses: First-degree crimes are the most serious and carry the heaviest punishments. The standard prison sentence is 10 to 20 years, but some crimes may result in a sentence anywhere from 20 years to life. In addition, you can be fined up to $200,000.
Second-degree offenses: While less serious than a first-degree offense, second-degree offenses are still very serious. If convicted of a second-degree crime, you face a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000.
Third-degree offenses: If convicted, you face a prison sentence between 3 to 5 years and a fine of up to $15,000. However, in New Jersey, there is a presumption of non-incarceration for third-degree crimes. In other words, there is a good chance that you will not go to prison if this is your first offense or you meet other criteria. However, you will likely have to participate in some kind of diversionary program (such as drug or alcohol treatment) or serve probation.
Fourth-degree offenses: If you are convicted of a fourth-degree crime, you face up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Fourth-degree offenses also carry a presumption of non-incarceration, giving you the opportunity to avoid jail. Again, you will likely have to participate in a diversionary program, serve probation, or possibly both.
Under New Jersey law, judges do have some discretion over the length of your sentence – they can allow you to serve all or part of your prison sentence on probation. However, you should also be aware that certain offenses may require extended terms, such as 20 years to life in prison for first-degree murder. Other offenses may include a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
A conviction in New Jersey for an indictable offense could change your life forever – as discussed above, you face the possibility of years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Unfortunately, too many people don’t take their case seriously until it’s almost too late. A criminal lawyer can help from the very outset. Prosecutors can be extremely aggressive and use a number of tactics to try to get a quick conviction. A criminal defense lawyer can protect you from these tactics. They can speak on your behalf and prohibit the prosecution or investigators from speaking to you outside of their presence. They can review all of your options with you, including any plea offers, to ensure that your rights are protected and you are getting fair treatment.
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we fight every step of the way to get a fair result for you. We understand that your future is at stake, and so you deserve aggressive, dedicated legal representation. Call us at 215-712-1212 or send us an email to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and learn about how we can help you.