Indictable Offense vs. Disorderly Persons Offense: Why Does It Matter?


Like many states, New Jersey classifies criminal charges into various types based on the perceived severity of the crime. While other states use the terms “felonies” and “misdemeanors,” New Jersey describes similar crimes as “indictable crimes,” “disorderly persons offenses,” and “petty disorderly persons offenses.” An “indictable crime” is similar to a felony in other states. A disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense is similar to a criminal misdemeanor. If you have been charged with an indictable criminal offense or issued a complaint for a disorderly persons offense, it is vital to understand the differences between these levels of offenses and the implications for your case. Our local Union County criminal defense lawyers represent clients facing a vast array of crimes and offenses in Elizabeth, Cranford, Clark, Roselle Park, Linden, Union Township, and throughout New Jersey. If you wish to speak with a lawyer about your case and the degree of your charges, contact us at (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation.

What’s the Difference Between an Indictable Crime and a Disorderly Persons Offense in NJ?

An indictable offense is considered much more serious under New Jersey criminal law than a disorderly persons offense. The most important thing to know about the distinction between these two types of crimes matters is that they come with very different punishments. Indictable offenses carry at least more than a year in New Jersey State Prison, while disorderly persons offenses have much less potential jail time, and fines are much lower.

Types of Indictable Offenses

Indictable criminal offenses are classified into various “degrees.” The degree of a crime sets out a different level of potential punishments, with first degree being the most severe and fourth degree being the least severe. First degree indictable offenses include charges for armed robbery, homicide, and aggravated sexual assault. Fourth degree crimes include forgery, some theft crimes, and stalking, just to name a few. Even the lowest-level indictable offense has the potential to include jail time of at least one year. In fact, fourth degree crimes have potential jail time of up to 18 months. Fines for fourth degree indictable charges can also be up to $10,000. A first degree indictable offense could come with between 10 and 20 years of prison time. In some cases, convictions will result in up to life in prison with a minimum period of parole ineligibility.

Charges for Disorderly Persons Offenses

A disorderly persons offense essentially qualifies as a misdemeanor in other states. In New Jersey, it is technically considered an offense, not a crime. Disorderly persons offenses are addressed by the Municipal Court system, as opposed to the Superior Court. Notably, you are not entitled to a jury trial for this type of charge. Charges such as simple assaultcriminal mischief (involving less than $200 of damage), property theft of less than $200, and possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana are all considered disorderly persons offenses.

Penalties for disorderly persons offenses are not nearly as harsh as indictable offenses, but they can still be severe. A more serious disorderly persons conviction may trigger roughly six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. You may also have to complete other tasks, including doing community service or paying additional court costs. In some situations, your driver’s license may also be revoked or suspended. Although a disorderly persons offense is not technically a crime, it will still go on your permanent record. This can negatively affect your ability to get a job, get a loan, or find housing.

Get Help When Charged With an Offense in Roselle Park or Another Union County Town

If you have been arrested on criminal charges, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney regardless of what kind of charge you are facing. Criminal cases of all kinds can affect your future more than you realize, but there are ways to level the playing field and successfully defend you in court. Call our defense lawyers in Cranford, NJ for more information or contact us online for a free consultation today.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.