Crimes in New Jersey are categorized as indictable offenses or disorderly persons offenses. These two categories of crimes differ significantly in terms of the legal process and the severity of the potential consequences if convicted. If you are accused of a crime in NJ, it is imperative to understand the type of charges you are facing and if the offense is indictable, what that means for you as you undergo the criminal justice process. Here is what you need to know about indictable crimes in New Jersey.
What Is an Indictable Crime in NJ?
An indictable crime is akin to a felony in other states—an offense for which violators face the potential over 6 months of imprisonment. In addition to a potential prison sentence, other defining characteristics of an indictable crime in New Jersey are the right of the accused to be indicted by a grand jury and the right to a trial by jury.
In New Jersey, indictable offenses are highly variable in terms of their grading and sentencing guidelines. Specifically, indictable crimes are classified into four different degrees. Fourth degree offenses carry penalties of up to 18 months of imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines and include offenses such as stalking, forgery, and marijuana offenses. Penalties for third degree offenses include 3 to 5 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $15,000 for offenses like arson and shoplifting goods valued at $500 to $75,000. Those convicted of second degree offenses face 5 to 10 years of imprisonment and up to $150,000 in fines for crimes including such as armed burglary. The highest level of indictable offenses in New Jersey, first degree crimes, carry penalties of 10 to 20 years of imprisonment (sometimes up to 30 years of imprisonment for certain offenses) and include the most serious crimes like armed robbery, murder, and aggravated sexual assault.
Right to Indictment by Grand Jury
Unlike disorderly persons offenses, indictable crimes in New Jersey carry the right to indictment by grand jury. This means that in order for the prosecutor to proceed with the charges against you, they must present the evidence to a grand jury, composed of members of the community, who will determine if there is reasonable cause to indict you.
The advantage of an indictment by a grand jury is that there is accountability. If you feel that you were treated unfairly, a grand jury trial will present an opportunity for a group of members of the community—not connected to law enforcement—to determine if the evidence against you is sufficient for an indictment, rather than that decision being left to the prosecutor’s office alone. In addition, if the prosecutor doesn’t believe they have sufficient evidence to secure an indictment, they may downgrade the charges to a lesser offense or negotiate a plea deal with lesser penalties. This is why it is essential to have a seasoned criminal defense lawyer representing you at your Pre-indictment Conference.
Right to Trial by Jury
Another important right that individuals accused of indictable offenses in New Jersey have is the right to trial by jury. Disorderly persons convictions are decided by judges only, and while the same burden of proof applies—beyond a reasonable doubt—having your case heard and decided by a jury of your peers requires the prosecution to convince every single juror that you committed every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
The burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt provides a skilled criminal defense lawyer with a host of potential challenges. At William Proetta Criminal Law, our attorneys will thoroughly evaluate your case to find weaknesses that we can use to show reasonable doubt during trial.
Charged With an Indictable Offense in Hudson County, New Jersey?
If you have been charged with an indictable offense in Hudson County, New Jersey, you are facing the potential of significant jail time and heavy fines. It is crucial that you find an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can present the best defense to the charges against you. The attorneys at William Proetta Criminal Law are ready to review your case and fight for you. For additional information regarding your indictable felony charges, contact our office in Jersey City at (201) 793-8018 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.