In New Jersey, a crime is defined by N.J.S.A. 2C:43-1 which provides in pertinent part:
§ 2C:43-1. Degrees of crimes
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.
A first degree, second degree, third degree, or fourth degree crime in New Jersey is an indictable criminal offense which must be handled by the Superior Court in the county in which crime allegedly occurred. Indictable offenses must be presented to a grand jury for indictment which is the formal charging document. Disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses, the lowest level criminal offenses in New Jersey, are handled in the Municipal Court in the municipality in which the crime allegedly occurred. Disorderly persons offenses do not need to be presented to a grand jury for indictment and are prosecuted via complaints or summonses.
Penalties for criminal offenses in New Jersey are as follows:
- First Degree: Ten (10) to Twenty (20) years in prison (presumption of incarceration)
- Second Degree: Five (5) to Ten (10) years in prison (presumption of incarceration)
- Third Degree: Three (3) to Five (5) years in prison
- Fourth Degree: Maximum of Eighteen (18) months in prison
- Disorderly Persons Offenses: Maximum six (6) months in the county jail
If you have no prior criminal history, you may be eligible for the Pre-Trial Intervention program if you have been charged with a 3rd degree or a 4th degree crime. Further, even if you are convicted of a third degree or fourth degree crime, because there is no presumption of incarceration, if you have no prior criminal history it is possible to be given a probationary sentence. Moreover, other sentences are possible including 364 days in the county jail rather than State prison time.
There are other sentencing issues in New Jersey including Brimage sentencing guidlelines for repeat drug offenders and the “No Early Release Act” for violent crimes. “NERA” (No Early Release Act) requires a defendant to serve 85% of his prison term before becoming eligible for parole. Megan’s Law may also be applicable in sex crime cases. For additional information, contact my Morristown office for immediate assistance at (908) 336-5008.