Table of Contents

Table of Contents

NJ Felony Charges: 5 Steps To Start Fighting Back!

New Jersey felony charges are termed “Indictable Offenses”. These are the most serious charges that you can face. If you plead guilty, or are found guilty, the judge has no choice but to sentence you to prison. We’ve put together everything you need to know regarding Felony (Indictable) offenses in New Jersey.


Felony charges in New Jersey carry serious consequences.
In addition to facing incarceration, you may lose your job, kicked out of school, or get deported.
However, depending on your “life-situation” you may qualify for a relatively easy way out.
We’ve prepared a step-by-step guide to help you understand your felony charges.
If you or a loved one is facing felony charges, this guide will aid you in clearing up any confusion.
Remember, felony charges have serious consequences and if you ever needed the help of a lawyer, now is the time.

STEP 1: Identify Your Felony Charges

New Jersey felony offenses are divided into four categories. They are:
1) 1st-degree
3) 3rd-degree and
4) 4th-degree.
You will find the type & degree of crime you are charged with on your Criminal Complaint. In our example, you will see: NJSA 2C:35-10A(1) charged as a 3rd-degree felony.
This defendant has other charges but they are Disorderly Persons Offenses (misdemeanors). We discuss this more here:

STEP 2: Understand Your Felony Charges

Now that you know if you are charged with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th-degree felony,
you can refer to the chart below.
Here you can see examples and the minimum to maximum prison terms & fines imposed.

Felony Degree

Prison & Fines



1st-degree felony charges in NJ are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses.

  • Murder
  • Aggravated Sex Assault
  • Manslaughter
  • Drug distribution


2nd-degree felony charges carry 5-10 yrs in prison.
These charges can often be “downgraded” to 3rd or 4th-degree crimes.
  •  Vehicular Homicide
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Robbery
  • Endangering Welfare of a Child


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


4th-degree felony charges carry up to 18 months in jail. But if you have a really good lawyer, he may be able to your case “remanded” to a lower court. In this way, you will be out of “felony” danger.

  • Drug Possession
  • Lewdness
  •  Criminal Sexual Contact
  • Criminal Mischief

Certain Factors Will Affect Your Felony Case

In addition to prison, serious felony charges carry other potential dangers.
Certain crimes have strict prison terms and mandatory minimums.
Also, specific sex felony charges impose lifetime supervision or sex offender registration.

If you used your “get out of jail free” card already, then you no longer have this option in New Jersey.
Please know that NJ looks at your criminal records from other states.

The No Early Release Act, also known as NERA, means that you will have to serve 85% of your prison term before you are eligible for parole.

If your case involves a weapon, then the Graves Act is triggered and you’ll be facing certain “Mandatory Minimums”.

If you are facing a felony charge involving any type of “sex crime”, then upon conviction you will be sentenced to fifteen years of sex offender registration.

Certain violent felony charges require that you be supervised for your entire life.
This means that even after you serve your prison sentence, you still have to report to your parole officer for the remainder of your life.

STEP 3: Factors Affecting Felony Plea Deals

Now that you’ve identified your felony charges and learned more about them, the next step will be to look at your “life-situation”.
There are many factors to consider regarding your felony charges.
Your circumstances with limit your legal defenses and strategies .
For example, are you a college student or do you have a professional license i.e., nurse, realtor, stock-broker, teacher etc.?
Do you have a duty to self-report?
Alternatively, you need to be aware of your immigration status and any immigration consequences related to your criminal matter.
Another consider is to look back over the course of your life.
Have you ever been arrested before?
If so, for what?
And what happened to that case?
Do you have any paperwork from your previous arrest?

What's Your Situation?

If you are a United States citizen, then this category shouldn’t be of much concern.
However, if you are here on a visa, a lawful permanent resident (LPR), or do not have a legal status, then you should be very concerned about your criminal arrest & conviction.

If you have a clean record (never been arrested) then you have the most options.
However, if you have a prior conviction (in any state), then you need to determine what type of conviction you have on your record.
For example, were you arrested as a juvenile or as an adult?
Is it a felony or misdemeanor conviction?
Prior convictions limit your options.
We may not be able to get you the same plea deal had your record been completely clean.
Also, if you have a felony charge on your record, you may not qualify for probation.

Certain careers require you to “self-report” in the event of an arrest or conviction.
Also, depending on the type of license you hold, then you will be limited in your plea-bargaining options.
One of the first things we need to know is how their felony charges will directly affect their career.

Different educational institutions also require you to “self-report” in the event of an arrest or conviction.
Depending on the type of school you are enrolled in,  you will be limited in your plea-bargaining options.
Many colleges and nursing schools have their own internal hearing process.
Your criminal defense attorney should be aware of this and involved in any administrative disciplinary hearings.

For many government employees a felony charge arrest will result in immediate termination.
Public officials facing felony charges will also lose their positions upon receiving a felony conviction.
You must be aware of the direct & collateral consequences related to your felony charge.

STEP 4: Are You Eligible For A "Diversion"?

Simply put, a diversion is a way out of your felony charge.
In New Jersey, you can avoid going to trial & going to prison (if convicted) by entering into one of various probationary programs.
Each program differs but you generally need to have a clean record to qualify.

Top 3 Ways To Avoid Jail In New Jersey

Pretrial Intervention (PTI), Probation, and Drug Court are three different ways to avoid jail.
These alternatives offer a way out while avoiding trial.
Your choice of program will depend on many factors.
Below you will find basic information with links to more in-depth pages.

Pretrial Intervention

This is your first choice.
We refer to it as your one and only “get of jail free card”.
Here’s an entire section dedicated to pretrial intervention:
PTI: Everything You Need To Know in 5 Minutes!


Probation in New Jersey is another way to avoid seeing the inside of jail.
It works slightly differently than PTI because you would have to enter a “guilty plea” to either the felony charge or an amended felony charge.
Instead of incarceration, you will be sentenced to a period of probation.
Indeed, you will have to pay restitution, fines, & complete community service.

Drug Court

New Jersey Drug court recognizes that people commit crimes while they are drunk or high.
The purpose of this program is not to punish the person facing the felony charge.
Rather, it is an intensive rehabilitative program whose aim focuses on helping alcohol & drug addicts recover from their addiction.
What Is Drug Court & How Does It Work?

STEP 5: Find An Experienced Felony Laywer

So what’s the best way to get you the best result possible?
If you’ve read this far, then you learned that there are many factors to consider when discussing your felony charges.
Our best advice is that you seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.
Just like us, many criminal lawyers offer free consultations.
Your criminal defense attorney will listen to your side of the story,guide you through the process, advocate on your behalf, and work tirelessly to get you the best result possible.
Try reading: Criminal Lawyers: Why we need them & How to choose one.

  • Felony Charges Lawyer Near Me

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About the Author

Attorney Alan G. Peyrouton

Attorney At Law

Mr. Peyrouton is a Criminal Defense Attorney located in Hackensak, NJ.

His articles in the areas of Criminal Law have been published in The New Jersey Law Journal.

He is a distinguished author, trial attorney, and has had the privilege of arguing before the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. Peyrouton was a world-class, competitive tennis player.

He is perfectly fluent in Spanish.