Misdemeanor v. Indictable Charges Attorney Monmouth and Ocean County NJ
Serving clients across the Jersey Shore in Point Pleasant, Toms River, Jackson, Wall, Sea Girt, and Brick.
Anyone charged with an offense in New Jersey can become easily confused by the terminology used by courts, attorneys, and even friends. This is often the case when a person is charged with a misdemeanor (disorderly persons) offense or an indictable offense. It is important to understand the differences between the two offenses and the potential consequences of each. Similarly, it can become hard to discern what you have been charged with and what the potential consequences are. From a DUI, to drug crimes, assault violations, driving tickets, or even stalking, it is important to understand the type of charge and potential consequences. Below, we will discuss the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony offense.
Misdemeanors and Indictable offenses are not the same.
New Jersey classifies offenses into two categories. Offenses are either disorderly persons or indictable offenses. Many people are confused about what they are charged with because these terms are not often used when referring to crimes. Instead, media outlets and many nearby states refer to offenses as misdemeanors or felonies. In New Jersey, the term disorderly persons offense is the equivalent of a misdemeanor in other states. You may hear some attorneys refer to it as a “dp”, short for disorderly persons. Similarly, a felony is relatively the same as an indictable offense. However just as the terms are different for the crimes are different, the potential consequences of each vary greatly.
Misdemeanor-disorderly persons offense
A misdemeanor is a lower-level offense that is, more often than not, heard in municipal court. This court is in the town in which the alleged offense occurred. The offenses in municipal court are broken down into two categories, namely petty disorderly persons (dp) offenses, and disorderly persons offenses. A petty “dp” is the lowest level offense that a person may be charged within New Jersey. It is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, $500 in fines, and court costs and mandatory state penalties. Petty dp’s commonly heard in municipal court are harassment, mutual fighting, and disorderly conduct. The next level of municipal offenses is disorderly persons offense (misdemeanors).
Disorderly/misdemeanor offenses are above petty dp’s but have less penal consequences than felony/indictable offenses. Unlike felony offenses, you cannot go to New Jersey State Prison if convicted of a disorderly persons offense. The law only allows a person convicted of such offense to go to the county jail for 180 days. However, there are additional penalties a person faces such as being placed on probation, up to $1000 in discretionary fines, mandatory state penalties, court costs, and possible license suspensions. Unfortunately, many people continue to suffer the consequences of a misdemeanor charge because they cannot make the required payments on the fines and the court then suspends their license. Of course, suspending the license compounds the financial problem as the person cannot get to work and therefore cannot pay the fines and the cycle continues. Common examples of misdemeanors charged in New Jersey are:
- Less than 50 grams of marijuana,
- Drug paraphernalia,
- Simple assault,
- Criminal mischief (damage less than $200),
- Shoplifting (less than $200)
Sometimes these charges can be attached to a complaint about an indictable/felony offense which is heard in Superior Court, located in the county in which the offense occurred.
Felony/indictable offenses, unlike misdemeanors, are punishable by potential terms in New Jersey State Prison. Felony offenses range from first through fourth degree and each degree has a term of state prison attached to it that you face. For example, first-degree faces 10-20 years in state prison, second-degree faces 5-10 years, third-degree 3-5 years, and fourth-degree faces 12-18 months. The court may sentence a person to probation in lieu of state prison, but the probationary sentence can include up to 364 days in the county jail. In addition to the state prison terms or probation, there are discretionary monetary penalties that you can be ordered to pay such as $10,000 for a fourth-degree, $15,000 for a third, $150,000 for a second and 250,000for a first.
Other differences in misdemeanor and felony offenses
Municipal Court (misdemeanors) is less formal than courts in which indictable offenses are heard. For example, you are entitled to a trial on a disorderly persons offense, but the trial will be in front of a judge, not a jury. In a felony case, you will have a trial in front of jurors. Additionally, for felonies unlike misdemeanors, your fingerprints and DNA will be taken and put in a state database to identify you in any future criminal conduct. A record of your charges will also be available for potential employers to see and as such, your employment and financial future will be negatively impacted.
Common examples of charges that would subject you to the consequences of felony charges are:
- Possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS)
- Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana
- Shoplifting (more than $200)
- Credit Card theft
- Bad check
- Identity theft
- Resisting arrest
- Aggravated assault.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list but rather a sample of commonly charged indictable offenses.
Consult a Criminal Defense Attorney with Offices in Brick and Sea Girt NJ
No matter what type of offense you are charged with, you are facing consequences that can have a negative impact on your personal and financial life. You need a zealous advocate that can protect you and guide you through the process. Our office has the knowledge and experience to help you in your case. Call our office today at (732) 812-3102 or contact us to arrange a free case consultation and evaluation with an experienced criminal trial attorney.
Types of Criminal Charges Reviewed by Ocean and Monmouth County Lawyers
Serving Clients Facing Infractions, Misdemeanors, and Felonies in Asbury Park, Wall, Toms River, Brick, Sea Girt, Manasquan, Neptune, Spring Lake and across the Jersey Shore
Most citizens don’t have much interaction with and knowledge of the criminal justice system. However, if you or someone you know is charged with a crime it is important to understand the different types of crimes and what the possible penalties that can result are.
In New Jersey, as in other states, crimes fall under different classifications. In fact, Title 2C Section 2C:1-4 of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice clearly defines the differences. This grouping usually reflects the seriousness of the different types of crimes committed and in most cases the penalties that are attached to the crime. The groups are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. The reason for these classifications is to help create a more efficient system and make a pattern that citizens can follow when it comes to how being charged with these crimes impact them.
The major categories are in most cases determined by the amount of jail time that is possible. For example, when trying to figure out what the difference is between a misdemeanor and a felony, one can look to the maximum potential jail time for the crime for the answer.
What qualifies as an Infraction in NJ Law?
Generally, infractions are the least serious type of crime. Put simply, an infraction is the violation of a rule, ordinance or law. In most cases, there is no jail time associated with an infraction and it, depending on the jurisdiction, will not appear on a criminal record. In the majority of cases, payment of a fine will be the only punishment. However, it is important to note that federal law classifies an infraction as a crime with a jail sentence of not more than five days. The most common example of an infraction is a traffic ticket, but other offenses can also be categorized as infractions, such as trespassing, littering, disturbing the peace as well as other petty offenses.
Though in cases of infractions police officers will usually just write a ticket and hand it to the person, however, infractions can turn into a more serious crime if left unaddressed or unpaid.
Commonly infractions have different classes (i.e. moving violations, non-moving violations, and other petty offenses). The law provides for an increasing range of fines and potential penalties for the different classes within the infraction category.
What is a Misdemeanor in NJ Criminal and Municipal Courts?
It is important to know that misdemeanors are more serious than infractions. Under federal law and in New Jersey, a misdemeanor is a criminal offense that carries a potential jail term of less than one year in county jail.
As with infractions, misdemeanors are sorted into classes as well. Federal sentencing guidelines divide the classes based on the maximum imprisonment for the offense.
- Class A misdemeanor – less than one year but more than six months
- Class B misdemeanor – more than 30 days but less than 6 months
- Class C misdemeanor – more than 5 days but less than 30 days
Once again, the jail time is served in a local county jail as opposed to a high-security prison. It is usual for prosecutors to have a great degree of flexibility in deciding what crimes to charge, how to punish them as well as what kinds of plea bargains will be offered to the defendant.
What is a Felony Charge in NJ Criminal Court?
There is no debate that a felony is the most serious type of crime. Generally, these are the crimes that can hurt the public, such as drug distribution or violent behavior. Consequences may range from massive fines of over a thousand dollars to going to prison for at least a year. However, the term felony is not uniform throughout the United States. The federal government defines a felony as a crime with a punishment of more than one year but states are less strict about the definition. New Jersey does not classify their criminal offenses at all. However, typically a sentence of more than one year that will be served in a state or federal prison will be considered a felony. As is the case with misdemeanors, Federal law breaks down classifications for felonies using sentencing guidelines by the amount of prison time.
- Class A Felony – life imprisonment or the death penalty.
- Class B Felony – twenty-five or more years of imprisonment.
- Class C Felony – less than twenty-five years, but more than ten years of imprisonment.
- Class D Felony – less than ten years, but more than five years of imprisonment.
- Class E Felony – less than five years, but more than one year of imprisonment.
Felonies are usually crimes that are viewed severely by society and given that the punishments are so impactful, a criminal procedure must be strictly observed in order to ensure that the defendants’ rights stay protected. Felonies are usually crimes that include crimes such as murder, rape, burglary, kidnapping and arson to name but a few. However, felonies can also be punished in a range of ways so that the actual punishment matches the severity of the crime.
Contact a Toms River Misdemeanor, Infraction, and Felony Criminal Attorney Today
Being charged with any crime is a serious matter. At Peter J. Bronzino, our legal team is experienced in defending the rights of our clients across Neptune, Spring Lake, Brielle, and Toms River in all types’ criminal cases and infraction.
If you have been charged with a crime, please contact a member of our legal team today to schedule a comprehensive and confidential consultation to review your case. Reach out to us at (732) 812-3102; or visit our access our online form we look forward to representing your legal rights.