New Jersey crime degrees are simple to understand.
Remember this: first is the worst!
First-degree charges carry the maximum penalties.
These charges carry ten-year mandatory minimum prison terms.
Fourth-degree charges are the least serious. You face up to 18 months.
In Jersey, we don't use the word felony
Instead, we the term for a felony is “Indictable Offense”.
If you face prison time, you are facing an “Indictable Offense”. Makes sense?
Crime Degrees & The Presumption of Incarceration
1st & 2nd- Degree Charges have a “Presumption of Incarceration”.
This means that if you are found guilty or plead guilty to either a First or Second Degree crime, you must go to prison. The judge does not have discretion and incarceration is mandatory.
3rd & 4th- Degree Charges – generally do not have a Presumption of Incarceration.
This means that the sentencing judge may have discretion and incarceration may not be mandatory.
Getting sentenced to prison depends on many factors. If you have a lengthy criminal record and keep committing crimes, prison may be the only remedy.
We have provided a quick reference chart below.
Presumption of Incarceration
10 + years
5 – 10 years
Up to 18 months
Crime Degrees & Prison Terms
The lower the number, the greater prison time you face.
Remember we said that first is the worst? Here’s another chart to help you.
Prison & Fines
What about non-Felony charges?
- The majority of other states use the term “Misdemeanor” to designate Minor criminal offenses.
In New Jersey, we use the terms “Disorderly Persons Offenses & Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses” when we refer to minor criminal offenses.
Penalties in New Jersey for Misdemeanors
- Disorderly Persons Offenses – up to six months in jail & $1,000- fine.
- Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses – up to 30 days in jail & $500- fine.
New Jersey Municipal courts are the most heavily trafficked courts in New Jersey. The state of New Jersey is home to over 560 municipalities. Each municipality has its own Municipal Court. Hundreds of thousands of cases are resolved at the Municipal Court level in New Jersey each year.
Another common misconception is that a DUI conviction in New Jersey is a felony. While 46 other states in the country have “felonized” DUIs, New Jersey still treats DUI convictions as Title 39 – traffic offenses. A DUI conviction or guilty plea will expose a defendant to jail time, but it will not appear on a criminal background check. But will a DUI affect employment?
Disorderly Persons Offenses and Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses WILL appear on a criminal background check. If you are found guilty or plead guilty to one of these offenses, he/she must wait five years and all fines must be paid before the conviction can be expunged.
Laws That Worsen Your Prison Sentence
The New Jersey Graves Act - N.J.S.A. 2C: 43-6
Anytime a gun comes into the picture, The Graves Act is triggered (No Pun Intended).
The Graves Act stands for the proposition that if a defendant pleads guilty OR is found guilty of a crime involving a gun, then the court must impose mandatory prison sentences and parole ineligibility. A person may have a stellar academic record and a completely clean criminal record, but it does not matter. There are no exceptions.
We have successfully represented clients facing serious mandatory prison time with both NERA & Graves Act sentencing enhancements.
These cases are extremely complicated and sensitive given the nature of the underlying crime and the State imposed mandatory minimums.
There are many factors that are to be considered in formulating a strategy when representing clients charged with these crimes.
Please schedule an appointment with us today so that we can explain how to go about obtaining a “Graves Act Waiver” and even pursuing a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) diverson to avoid prison altogether.
Crime Degrees Combined with NERA
In New Jersey, convictions for certain crimes result in a sentence imposed pursuant to the No Early Release Act (“NERA”). N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
You will have to serve 85% of your prison term before becoming eligible for parole.
The following are some of the crimes that trigger NERA:
*PLEASE NOTE: There are many more crimes which involve NERA.