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What Is an Indictable Offense in New Jersey?


Criminal offenses are labeled differently from state to state and across jurisdictions. Many states categorize the most serious crimes, known as felony offenses, into classes with labels of first-degree, second-degree, and the like while others may group them into Class A, Class B, and so on. New Jersey differs from other states in that the term “felony offense” was eliminated by the legislature. These crimes are now called “indictable offenses.”

What does indictable mean? It means that the state is now required to proceed with a grand jury investigation to determine if enough evidence exists to charge the accused for the alleged offense. It also refers to the fact that the grand jury has succeeded in finding adequate evidence to justify a trial. Thus, indictable offenses in New Jersey are equivalent to felonies in other states. These are serious crimes that can have major consequences in terms of jail or prison time, fines, restitution, probation, and other court sanctions.

What Is a Grand Jury?

A grand jury differs from the jury that hears a case in a trial. Like a trial jury, they are a group of citizens called to jury duty. However, their job is not to decide if the accused is guilty or innocent but if he or she should be formally charged with a crime. These juries generally consist of 23 people. They are convened at the prosecutor’s behest to help the state decide whether to move forward with the case or not.

Prosecutors will ensure that the grand jury understands the laws involved in the case after, which the jury has the right to hear any kind of evidence and interrogations it wishes. If the grand jury decides that the evidence is enough for the prosecutor to proceed, that decision will become a written statement called an “indictment.” An indictment can be reached by a two-thirds or three-quarters vote among the jurors. An indictment will lead to a trial.

Indictable Offenses in New Jersey

Indictable offenses in New Jersey are broken down into four categories, as follows:

  • First-degree, the most serious for such crimes as murder, manslaughter, rape, large-scale drug operations, and aggravated assault
  • Second-degree, includes various sex crimes, lesser drug crimes, aggravated arson, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, and certain white-collar crimes
  • Third-degree, including drug possession, certain DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs) offenses, arson, certain robbery crimes (without aggravating circumstances), other theft crimes, and assault offenses
  • Fourth-degree, for such crimes as forgery, stalking, lesser robbery offenses, and other types of DUI

The penalties for the above categorized offenses will depend on the type of crime for which a conviction has been made, as well as “aggravating” factors such as prior criminal history, if any, and other circumstances relevant to the crime.

Penalties are as follows:

  • First-degree crimes are punishable by a range of 10 to 30 years in prison along with a fine of up to $200,000 or life in prison for a crime such as murder
  • Second-degree crimes carry penalties of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
  • Third-degree offenses carry penalties of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Fourth-degree offenses may be punished by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000

Certain indictable offenses in New Jersey are subject to mandatory minimum sentences. In some cases, judges may also permit an offender to serve a portion or all a sentence as probation.

Collateral Consequences of an Indictable Offense

Being convicted of any indictable offense leads to a permanent criminal record. That record can be easily accessed by anyone running a routine background check, such as a future landlord, employer, educational institution, or professional licensing agency. Thus, a conviction can have serious repercussions on your ability to obtain future employment, housing, professional licenses (think nursing, pharmacy, piloting, real estate, etc.) or qualify for educational opportunities. An indictable offense record can also have immigration consequences for noncitizens, such as deportation hearings or non-renewal of green cards.

Because of the deep impact all the consequences of a conviction can have on your personal and professional life and your freedom and future, it is vital to have skilled and dedicated legal counsel. At the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC, our Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer has the highest qualifications for meeting your defense needs.

For legal assistance, contact us at (201) 574-7919 or via our consultation request form today.

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