Being charged with a crime can be a frightening experience, whether your facing allegations of a minor offense or something more serious. If convicted, your life could change forever. The prosecution wants you to think that there’s no hope for an acquittal and that you will get a more lenient sentence if you cooperate. It’s important to understand that you don’t have to face these charges alone. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in New Jersey can help you get the best result possible.
Experienced Criminal Defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help you understand the charges you face and give you a candid assessment of your case. From there, she can help you understand your options and formulate an aggressive defense. The most important step is to get in touch before it’s too late - call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
In New Jersey, serious crimes are referred to as “indictable offenses” rather than felonies. Generally speaking, indictable offenses are crimes that are punishable by at least one year in prison.
One of the reasons serious crimes are referred to as “indictable offenses” in New Jersey is that you must first be indicted by a grand jury in order to be formally charged with a crime. This means that the prosecution has to go before 23 grand jurors and persuade them that there is sufficient evidence to charge you with a crime. It’s critical to understand that a grand jury indictment is not a finding of guilt.
In New Jersey, indictable offenses are categorized according to four different degrees, with first-degree crimes being the most serious.
Please note that the examples listed for each degree are not exhaustive. In addition, some crimes may vary by degree depending on the surrounding circumstances and whether it is your first or subsequent offense.
Indictable offenses typically carry prison sentences and can also result in heavy fines. Here are the potential penalties you may be facing according to each degree of offense:
The sentencing guidelines do require extended sentences in certain cases, but also allow judges some flexibility with regard to probation.
New Jersey law also uses different terminology for lesser crimes commonly known as “misdemeanors” in other states. In New Jersey, these are referred to as “disorderly persons” charges.
Unlike indictable offenses, they do not require the prosecutor to seek permission from a grand jury before charging you with a crime. In addition, your case will be heard in municipal court rather than the Superior Court. If you go to trial, your case will be heard only by a judge and not a jury.
Disorderly persons charges are not uncommon, but if you are unfamiliar with New Jersey’s criminal system, some context may help. Here are some crimes that are commonly charged as disorderly persons offenses:
Again, this is not an exhaustive list. If you’ve been charged with a disorderly persons offense, you should take it seriously even though it isn’t an indictable offense. If convicted, you could be required to spend some time in jail. In addition, your conviction will be a matter of public record and therefore discoverable by friends, family, or even potential employers.
The most minor offense in New Jersey is called a “petty disorderly persons” crime. Disorderly conduct and harassment are common disorderly persons charges.
While it may sound benign, a disorderly persons charge is still a criminal charge. As a result, you could be facing jail time and fines if convicted.
Again, a disorderly persons conviction is a criminal conviction that will be available to the public. A conviction could also lead to employment issues - you could lose your job, and it could make it difficult to find another one. If you are not a United States Citizen, a conviction could also negatively impact your immigration status.
A criminal conviction can have life-long consequences, even if you’ve been charged with a minor crime. The prosecution just wants a conviction, even if they seem like they’re being fair. You need someone on your side who has your best interests at heart.
Whether it's a disorderly persons charge or a first-degree indictable offense, Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge and experience you need to get a fair result. With dedicated and passionate advocacy, she'll make sure that your rights are protected. Call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.