As the war on drugs commenced in the 1980s and the criminal justice system began to clog with low-level drug cases, significant court delays and other problems developed. Philadelphia was home to one of the early drug court programs that reduced the days required for processing a case and increased annual case dispositions. Drug courts…
Being charged with a serious crime can be overwhelming for most people, especially when facing the possibility of spending years in state prison. Nevertheless, there is hope, but you need someone on your side fighting for your rights. You deserve a fair outcome, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding your charges.
New Jersey criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer helps people face their criminal charges, whether for minor offenses or very serious crimes. She knows that this is your future at stake, and she uses her knowledge, experience, and legal skill to help you get the best possible result. If you’d like to learn about how we can help you, schedule your free consultation by calling us at 215-712-1212 or contacting us online.
Indictable Offense Defined
Serious crimes in New Jersey are called “indictable offenses.” These offenses are typically the equivalent of felonies in other states and are distinguished from “disorderly persons offenses,” New Jersey’s name for misdemeanors. Where disorderly persons offenses are punishable by a maximum of six months in jail, the potential punishment for an indictable offense includes a minimum sentence of one year.
These offenses are called “indictable” because you must be indicted by a grand jury in order to be charged. This means that the prosecution must first bring the case to the grand jury for review, and demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence to support a charge. If the grand jury finds that there is sufficient evidence, they will issue an indictment, the prosecution will formally file charges, and the case will proceed.
Degrees of Indictable Offenses
New Jersey law recognizes four degrees of indictable offenses:
- First degree crimes;
- Second-degree crimes;
- Third-degree crimes; and
- Fourth-degree crimes.
First-degree crimes are the most serious, while fourth-degree crimes are considered to be lesser offenses. However, fourth-degree crimes are sort of a catch-all – many crimes that are considered to be misdemeanors are fourth-degree crimes, and any crime that does not have a specified degree by statute is a fourth-degree crime.
The Consequences of Conviction
If convicted of an indictable offense, you could be facing a prison sentence and harsh fines. The potential punishment will vary according to the degree of the underlying offense:
- Fourth-degree offenses: If you are convicted of a fourth-degree crime, you face up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree offenses: If convicted, you face a prison sentence between 3 to 5 years and a fine of up to $15,000.
- Second-degree offenses: If convicted of a second-degree crime, you face a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000.
- First degree offenses: First-degree crimes are the most serious and carry the heaviest punishments. The standard prison sentence is 10 to 20 years, but some crimes may result in a sentence anywhere from 20 years to life. In addition, you can be fined up to $200,000.
Under New Jersey law, the judges do have some discretion to allow the defendant to serve all or part of their prison sentence on probation. However, you should also be aware that certain offenses may require extended terms, such as 20 years to life in prison for first-degree murder. Other offenses may include a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Common First Degree Indictable Offenses
As mentioned above, first-degree indictable offenses are considered the most serious crimes under New Jersey law – if convicted, you could face a sentence of 10 to 20 years. Some of the most common crimes that trigger first-degree indictable offense charges are as follows:
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Money laundering
- Drug trafficking
- Aggravated assault
Common Second Degree Indictable Offenses
While less serious than a first-degree offense, second-degree indictable offenses can result in a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years. Here are some examples of common crimes that can result in a second-degree indictable offense charge:
- Aggravated assault
- Sexual assault
- Unlawful possession of a handgun
Common Third Degree Indictable Offenses
As mentioned above, a conviction for a third-degree indictable offense could result in a prison sentence between three and five years. The following are some of the more common third-degree crimes:
- Possession of heroin or cocaine
- Credit card fraud
- Shoplifting and theft of property worth more than $500
- Unlawful possession of a rifle or shotgun
In New Jersey, there is a presumption of non-incarceration for third-degree crimes. This means that if this is your first offense, there is a good chance that you will not go to prison. However, you will likely have to participate in a diversionary program (such as drug treatment) or serve probation.
Common Fourth Degree Crimes
Although fourth-degree indictable offenses are considered the lowest of indictable offenses, you can still be sentenced up to 18 months in New Jersey State Prison. These are some of the most common fourth degree indictable offenses that we see:
- Restraining order violations
- Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana
- Shoplifting and theft of property valued between $200 and $500
Like third-degree crimes, there is also a presumption of non-incarceration for fourth-degree offenses. Again, you will likely have to participate in a diversionary program or serve probation or possibly both.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Many people think that they need a lawyer only if their case is going to trial. This is a serious mistake for a number of reasons but also overlooks how a lawyer can help from the very outset. Prosecutors can be extremely aggressive and use a number of tactics to try to get a quick conviction. For example, they may charge you with multiple crimes in order to convince a jury that you must be guilty of something or simply to use as leverage to get you to accept a plea. Alternatively, they may try to get you to say something that will later be used against you. They may try to get you to accept a plea agreement on a charge on which they would likely not be able to convict you.
A criminal defense lawyer can protect you from these tactics. They can speak on your behalf, and prohibit the prosecution from speaking to you outside of their presence. They can review all of your options with you, including any plea offers, to ensure that you are making an informed decision and getting a fair result.
Facing an Indictable Offense in New Jersey? Call New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Lauren Wimmer
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we know what it takes to get a fair result. We’ll work with you every step of the way to make sure you are fully informed about everything going on in your case and what options you have. Attorney Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to get a fair result. Call us at 215-712-1212 or send us an email to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.