What is a Fourth Degree Crime in New Jersey?
New Jersey crimes have four degrees, from first to fourth, which are listed in section N.J.S.A. 2C:43-1 of the New Jersey Code of Justice. If you are arrested and charged with a fourth degree crime, there are multiple things you need to know. A fourth degree crime is an indictable offense in New Jersey, often called a felony. In other states there are misdemeanors and felonies but in New Jersey we have disorderly persons offenses and indictable crimes. Think of it like a scale: a first degree crime is considered the most egregious offense, while a fourth degree crime is the least serious of the four. Being charged with a fourth degree crime means that your case will be sent to the Superior Court in the county where the alleged offense occurred. So, if you are facing a fourth degree charge in Parsippany, your case is heard in the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown. Understanding what a fourth degree crime means in terms of your exposure to penalties is very important, as are the potential options you have to resolve your case.
Penalties for Fourth Degree Crimes
As mentioned, fourth degree crimes are the lowest on the scale of seriousness when considering indictable criminal offenses. The potential penalties for a fourth degree crime in NJ include:
- Up to 18 months in New Jersey State Prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
- A felony conviction on your criminal record
Fourth Degree Crime Examples
Fourth degree crimes are somewhat of a catch-all in New Jersey, as any crime considered a misdemeanor under the NJ Criminal Code and not specifically addressed becomes a crime of the fourth degree. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-1(b) states: “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.”
The following are some examples of crimes that are considered fourth degree under New Jersey law:
- Aggravated assault if it recklessly caused bodily injury with a weapon
- Violation of a restraining order (contempt)
- Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana
- Criminal mischief resulting in monetary loss between $500 and $2,000
- Shoplifting and theft between $200 and $500
- Harassment if the defendant was on probation or parole at the time of the offense
Presumption of Non-incarceration for Fourth Degree Crimes
New Jersey does not require you to serve jail time for a fourth degree crime if you are a first-time offender. This is known as a presumption of non-incarceration. In fact, you can resolve a fourth degree case by serving a period of probation or even have your charges dismissed altogether by completing Pretrial Intervention (PTI). In some cases, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help to get your charges downgraded to a disorderly persons offense and remanded to Municipal Court, where you face less severe penalties. Municipal courts in NJ offer several diversionary programs like Conditional Discharge and Conditional Dismissal that allow you to avoid a conviction and a criminal record.
Contact New Jersey Fourth Degree Crime Attorneys for a Free Consultation
Although fourth degree crimes are relatively less serious than other indictable offenses, you still face significant penalties if your case is not handled properly. To discuss your specific case with one of our criminal defense lawyers, contact The Tormey Law Firm today at (908) 336-5008 or online for a free consultation. One of our highly knowledgeable attorneys will be happy to explain the legal process and discuss all of the ways you may be able to have your charges dismissed.
To learn more about criminal sentencing in New Jersey, access the Manual on NJ Sentencing Law.