New Jersey Degrees of Crimes and Penalties

Morris County Defense Attorneys against Criminal Penalties in Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, and Surrounding Communities

NJ Degrees of Crimes and Penalties

Crime Degrees and Penalties in New Jersey

In New Jersey, there are various levels, or degrees, of criminal offenses. The first major delineation is between indictable crimes (felonies) and non-indictable offenses similar to misdemeanors. The lowest level of criminal offense is called a petty disorderly persons offense, while the more egregious crimes are first degree crimes. The severity of criminal offenses exists on a spectrum and as the crime becomes more serious, the potential penalties associated with a conviction increase accordingly. Regardless of the degree of the charges in your case, a criminal conviction will appear on your criminal record. Thus, it is extremely important to enlist an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney who can mount an aggressive defense on your behalf.

The Tormey Law Firm is a team of highly skilled New Jersey criminal defense lawyers who concentrate their entire practice on defending clients accused of crimes. With offices in Morristown, our attorneys fight criminal charges in Roxbury, Washington Township, Jefferson, Mount Olive, Boonton, and throughout Morris County and New Jersey on a daily basis. With a former Municipal Prosecutor and former County Prosecutor on staff, we take a comprehensive approach when developing defense strategies in Municipal and Superior court cases. In addition, our firm’s founder Travis J. Tormey has been named among the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the nation by the National Trial Lawyers Association. Ultimately, our highly satisfied clients are our greatest accomplishment. If you have been charged with an indictable crime or disorderly persons offense in Morris County, NJ, get a free consultation with an experienced attorney today by calling (908) 336-5008.

Degree of a Crime in New Jersey

There are four degrees of indictable crimes in New Jersey. First degree is the most serious and fourth degree is the least. If you are charged with an indictable crime in New Jersey, the initial charge must go before a grand jury in Superior Court. The grand jury hears the evidence against you before deciding whether or not to formally indict you. If you are indicted, your case will proceed. At this point, you may decide to take a plea offer or to proceed to trial. Let’s take a closer look at each degree of crime in New Jersey.

  • First Degree Crime: most serious category of crime; examples include homicide, manslaughter, armed robbery, and aggravated sexual assault; punishable by between 10 and 20 years imprisonment and a $200,000 fine
  • Second Degree Crime: second-most serious level of crime; examples include sexual assault, drug distribution in large quantities, and unlawful gun possession; penalties include between 5 and 10 years in NJ State Prison and a $150,000 fine
  • Third Degree Crime: more serious than fourth degree but less serious than first and second; examples include heroin possession, burglary, and terroristic threats; punishable by 3 to 5 years and a $15,000 fine
  • Fourth Degree Crime: least serious type of felony; examples include certain theft crimes, aggravated assault, and violation of a restraining order; maximum sentence is 18 months in New Jersey State Prison and a $10,000 fine

Importantly, third degree and fourth degree crimes entail a presumption of non-incarceration for first offenders. This means that if the charge represents your first offense, you may be eligible for probation or a diversionary program like Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or Drug Court.

Disorderly Persons and Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses

Under New Jersey law, any offense punishable by 6 months in jail or less is a disorderly persons offense. There are two levels: disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. DP offenses are the most frequent charges handled in NJ municipal courts. Both petty and disorderly persons offenses are punishable by jail time and will result in a criminal record if you are convicted. Take a look at DP and PDP examples and penalties:

  • Disorderly persons offense: examples include disorderly conduct, marijuana possession less than 50 grams, and simple assault; penalties include up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of $1,000
  • Petty disorderly persons offense: harassment is a common example; punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine

New Jersey Degrees of Crimes Statute: N.J.S.A. 2C:43-1

The New Jersey Criminal Code explains degrees of crimes and how they are classified in section N.J.S.A. 2C:43-1, which states:

a. Crimes defined by this code are classified, for the purpose of sentence, into four degrees, as follows:

(1) Crimes of the first degree;

(2) Crimes of the second degree;

(3) Crimes of the third degree; and

(4) Crimes of the fourth degree.

A crime is of the first, second, third or fourth degree when it is so designated by the code. An offense, declared to be a crime, without specification of degree, is of the fourth degree.

b. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a crime defined by any statute of this State other than this code and designated as a high misdemeanor shall constitute for the purpose of sentence a crime of the third degree. Except as provided in sections 2C:1-4c. and 2C:1-5b. and notwithstanding any other provision of law, a crime defined by any statute of this State other than this code and designated as a misdemeanor shall constitute for the purpose of sentence a crime of the fourth degree.

Charged with a Criminal Offense in Roxbury, Morris Township, Boonton, Denville, or Nearby Areas?

If you or a loved one is arrested in Morris County, New Jersey, the next decision you make is very important. Hiring the right attorney is often a make or break choice in criminal cases. And finding one familiar with the court where your charges are being handled is essential. Our Morristown criminal defense attorneys are in Morris County courts constantly and we are fully prepared to fight for your best outcome. Whether we need to negotiate for a downgraded charge, help you gain admission into conditional discharge or PTI, or craft a defense strategy for an outright dismissal at trial, we work relentlessly on your behalf until the very end. Contact us 24/7 for a free consultation about your Morris County criminal case. We are standing by to assist you at (908) 336-5008.

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Experience You Can Trust

With unmatched knowledge and experience in the practice of law, the seasoned attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm are committed to serving their clients and tenaciously confronting the allegations against them.

We will examine every facet of your case in order to defend your constitutional rights and reputation.

With a dedicated legal advocate to assist you, our attorneys will ensure that you are never forced to navigate the complex legal process on your own.

The Tormey Law Firm

Morristown Location

55 Madison Avenue, Suite 400, Morristown, NJ 07960

(908) 336-5008 Directions

Areas we serve

All of Morris County including Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, Chester Borough, Chester Township, Denville Township, Dover, East Hanover Township, Florham Park, Hanover Township, Harding Township, Jefferson Township, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park, Long Hill Township, Madison, Mendham Borough, Mendham Township, Mine Hill Township, Mount Arlington, Montville, Morris Plains, Morris Township, Morristown, Mount Olive Township, Mountain Lakes, Netcong, Parsippany-Troy Hills Township, Pequannock Township, Randolph, Riverdale, Rockaway Borough, Rockaway Township, Roxbury Township, Victory Gardens, Washington Township, and Wharton.