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Misdemeanors and Felonies in NJ: Understanding the Differences

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Because New Jersey uses different terminology from other states when it comes to the classification of crimes, there may be some confusion and common misconceptions as to the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. In New Jersey, offenses that are called a “felony” in other jurisdictions are referred to as indictable offenses or crimes. Meanwhile, those offenses referred to as misdemeanors in other states are generally known as disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey. These classifications of offenses in New Jersey are used to grade a charge and determine the penalties for a guilty verdict or plea.

Disorderly Persons Offenses (Misdemeanors) in NJ

 A disorderly persons offense is an act for which a person can be arrested, but it is a lower-grade offense than those classified as crimes. A disorderly persons charge is a quasi-criminal act that would be more commonly known as a misdemeanor in other states. This means that the case will generally be heard in New Jersey Municipal Court and the prosecutor doesn't need to go before a grand jury to seek an indictment as it is done for indictable offenses. Another major difference is that in disorderly persons offenses, there are no jury trials, so if your charge is brought to trial it will be heard by a judge and usually in the municipal court in the town where the incident occurred. Disorderly persons charges, as misdemeanors, don't have automatic jail time or heavy fines attached to the charges in the event of a conviction, but there are still significant penalties.

Some examples of a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey include:

Indictable Criminal Offenses (Felonies) in NJ

An indictable criminal offense, or crime, is a more serious offense than a disorderly persons. These offenses are called felonies in most other jurisdictions, but they generally operate the same way. They are broken down by degree ranging from first degree to fourth degree, with the first being the most severe. In New Jersey, indictable offenses are called as such because the accused has the right to have his case presented to a grand jury, and if the Grand Jury believes there is probable cause to believe the charges a formal indictment is issued. Indictable offenses are heard in the Superior Court and, if the trial results, they are trial by jury, unlike disorderly persons offenses which are Bench trial before a Judge with no jury.

The Difference in Penalties for Disorderly Persons Offenses and Crimes in NJ

Whether you are convicted of a disorderly persons charge or indictable crime in New Jersey, it will appear on your criminal record. Depending on the level of offense, you can face jail time, fines, and loss of your driver's license as punishment. In some cases, with the help of an attorney, it may be possible for a disorderly persons charge to be reduced to an ordinance violation. This would render the charge non-criminal and would result in a fine. More importantly, it would not appear as a criminal conviction on your criminal record.

Penalties Overview:

●    Disorderly Persons Offenses: Up to $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
●    Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses: Maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
●    Fourth Degree Crime: Up to 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
●    Third Degree Crime: 3 to 5 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
●    Second Degree Crime: 5 to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000 fine.
●    First Degree Crime: Up to 20 years in prison and $200,000 in fines.

Contact a Lawyer About Your Disorderly Persons or Criminal Charge

Have you or a loved one been charged with a disorderly persons offense or indictable crime in New Jersey? Are you confused about the classification of the crime between misdemeanor (disorderly persons offense) and felony (indictable criminal offense)? If so, you should contact the criminal defense attorneys of Villani & DeLuca PC. Being charged with any crime can be a frightening experience whether it is a disorderly persons offense or something worse. Simply because it is viewed as a misdemeanor doesn't render the consequences meaningless. It is of great benefit to a person's future to be able to reduce the charges or even have them dismissed if possible. A criminal record can affect future opportunities. It is important to do what you can to be sure that the charge you receive is the lowest possible charge with the least consequences based upon the facts and circumstances of your case.

If you were charged with an offense Villani & DeLuca PC can help you protect yourself and defend your future. Call for a free consultation today!


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