New Jersey Crime Degrees Made Simple

Top Rated NJ Criminal Lawyer

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

In Jersey, we don’t use the word felony.
We do not use the term “Felony” to designate the most serious type of crime degree.
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.

Other States
New Jersey
Degree
Presumption of Incarceration
Prison Time
Felony
Indictable Offense
First
                Yes
10 + years
Felony
Indictable Offense
Second
                Yes
5 – 10 years
Felony
Indictable Offense
Third
                 No
3-5 years
Felony
Indictable Offense
Fourth
                 No
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.

Felony Degree

Prison & Fines

Examples

First-Degree

1st-degree felony charges in NJ are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses. Prison terms start at a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Second-Degree

2nd-degree felony charges carry 5-10 yrs in prison. These charges can often be “downgraded” to 3rd or 4th-degree crimes.

Third-Degree

3rd-degree felony charges carry 3-5 years. You have a good shot at PTI if you are charged with a 3rd-degree.

Fourth-Degree

4th-degree felony charges carry up to 18 months in jail. These cases can get “remanded” to a lower court. In this way, you will be out of “felony” danger.

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.

Marijuana Possession, Simple Assault, and Terroristic Threats are common misdemeanor charges in this state.

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.

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How We Can Help

Regardless of the criminal charges you are facing, we are here to defend & protect you. Whether you are facing a restraining order, drug charge, theft charge, or aggravated assault charge, we are here to help you. Even a DWI case can really complicate your life.

If we can’t get your charges dismissed, we can either get them downgraded or place you in a diversionary program. The point is, our criminal defense lawyers will fight tirelessly to get you the best result possible. Take advantage of our free consultation to see how we can help.

Our Experience

You or a loved one have been arrested. Understandably, you are terrified & have a lot of questions. You’ve heard about plea bargains & probation, but the process is overwhelming. You want a local attorney near you to represent you.

Mr. Peyrouton is from Ridgewood & handles all types of criminal matters in New Jersey The New Jersey Law Journal recently published one of his articles on the subject of criminal law.

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How Do Your Free Consultations Work?

There are plenty of excellent Hackensack criminal lawyers in our area. Most, if not all of them, offer free, 20-minute, consultations. However, our free consultations do not have a time limit. You will never feel rushed.

The best way for us to help you is to patiently listen to your side of the story. Your version of events will serve as the basis for your legal defense. It is during these initial meetings that your memory of the event is fresh in your mind. Why we would rush you during such an important aspect of your case.

We understand that your choice of attorney could mean the difference between your freedom and spending years behind bars. 

When you hire an attorney, you are entering a long-term relationship. For this reason, it is important that you feel comfortable with the team of Hackensack criminal lawyers that will represent you.

A person extorts if he purposely threatens to:

a. Inflict bodily injury on or physically confine or restrain anyone or commit any other criminal offense;
b. Accuse anyone of an offense or cause charges of an offense to be instituted against any person;
c. Expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;
d. Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action;
e. Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;
f. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
g. Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another person.

***It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs b, c, d or f that the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.

Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is a “search” standard that applies in criminal law.

When a police officer conducts a warrantless search, and does not have probable cause to justify the search, the courts look to see if the police had
a “reasonable & articulable suspicion” for the search.

A mere “hunch” is not enough.

In other words, a police officer has to provide an acceptable explanation for the search.

United States Constitution

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

NJSA - 2C:43-7.2.
Eligibility for parole;
persons convicted of certain violent crimes

a. A court imposing a sentence of incarceration for a crime of the first or second degree enumerated in subsection d. of this section shall fix a minimum term of 85% of the sentence imposed, during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.


b. The minimum term required by subsection a. of this section shall be fixed as a part of every sentence of incarceration imposed upon every conviction of a crime enumerated in subsection d. of this section, whether the sentence of incarceration is determined pursuant to N.J.S.2C:43-6, N.J.S.2C:43-7, N.J.S.2C:11-3 or any other provision of law, and shall be calculated based upon the sentence of incarceration actually imposed. The provisions of subsection a. of this section shall not be construed or applied to reduce the time that must be served before eligibility for parole by an inmate sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration. Solely for the purpose of calculating the minimum term of parole ineligibility pursuant to subsection a. of this section, a sentence of life imprisonment shall be deemed to be 75 years.


c. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary and in addition to any other sentence imposed, a court imposing a minimum period of parole ineligibility of 85 percent of the sentence pursuant to this section shall also impose a five-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the first degree, or a three-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the second degree. The term of parole supervision shall commence upon the completion of the sentence of incarceration imposed by the court pursuant to subsection a. of this section unless the defendant is serving a sentence of incarceration for another crime at the time he completes the sentence of incarceration imposed pursuant to subsection a., in which case the term of parole supervision shall commence immediately upon the defendant’s release from incarceration. During the term of parole supervision the defendant shall remain in release status in the community in the legal custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and shall be supervised by the State Parole Board as if on parole and shall be subject to the provisions and conditions

Felony Degree

Prison & Fines

Examples

First-Degree

1st-degree felony charges in NJ are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses. Prison terms start at a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Second-Degree

2nd-degree felony charges carry 5-10 yrs in prison.
These charges can often be “downgraded” to 3rd or 4th-degree crimes.

Third-Degree

3rd-degree felony charges carry 3-5 years.
You have a good shot at PTI if you are charged with a 3rd-degree.

Fourth-Degree

4th-degree felony charges carry up to 18 months in jail. These cases can get “remanded” to a lower court. In this way, you will be out of “felony” danger.