In many states, criminal offenses are categorized as felony offenses, broken down into classes such as first-degree or Class B. In New Jersey, however, criminal offenses are legally referred to as indictable offenses. Because they are felonies, an indictable offense in NJ is treated the same way as felonies in other states. While the name may be different, the penalties and proceedings are generally the same.
What Does “Indictable Offense” Mean?
For disorderly persons charges, an arrest is made and court procedures can begin right away. For indictable offenses, however, a case must undergo a grand jury investigation. The point of the investigation is to judge the evidence presented and determine if a case can be made against the defendant. Essentially, the state must justify the need for a trial against the defendant. Because indictable offenses are felonies, there are serious consequences and penalties associated with a conviction. As such, extra precautions are taken to ensure a charge can be made and a trial enacted.
What is the Point of the Grand Jury?
The grand jury isn’t the official trial a defendant faces. Instead, it is a barrier between the arrest and the actual trial. During a grand jury hearing, the jury is not required to decide a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Instead, they are only examining the evidence to determine if the defendant should be formally charged. Even if a defendant isn’t convicted, a felony charge can still have major consequences on their life, and a grand jury’s job is to ensure that there’s enough evidence to move to trial.
A grand jury is made up of 23 citizens chosen to help decide whether a state should move forward with its case. When a grand jury is called, the prosecutor will provide them with the evidence they need and ensure that each member understands the specifics of the laws in question. If at least two-thirds of the jury believes there’s enough evidence to proceed, they provide a written statement referred to as an indictment. This allows the defendant to be formally charged with the offense and moves the case to a trial.
Penalties for an Indictable Offense in NJ
An indictable offense in NJ will fit into one of the following four categories, each with its own set of penalties and consequences. While there are standards for most offenses, the associated penalties will differ depending on the type of crime committed and other factors, such as whether there was a previous criminal record.
First-Degree Indictable Offense
A first-degree offense is the most severe. Serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, and large-scale drug operations typically fall into this category. Penalties for a first-degree indictable offense include:
- 10-30 years in prison
- Fines of up to $200,000
Second-Degree Indictable Offense
While not as severe as the offenses in the first-degree category, second-degree indictable offenses are still severe. Crimes such as aggravated arson, burglary, and kidnapping typically fall into this category. Penalties for a second-degree indictable offense include:
- 5-10 years in prison
- Fines up to $150,000
Third-Degree Indictable Offense
A third-degree indictable offense in NJ isn’t as severe as first and second-degree offenses, but it can still have major consequences. Crimes such as drug possession, DUI, and assault can fall into this category. Penalties for third-degree indictable offenses include:
- 3-5 years in prison
- Fines up to $15,000
Fourth-Degree Indictable Offense
A fourth-degree indictable offense is still a felony, but it’s not as serious as the other categories. Crimes such as stalking, forgery, and lesser robbery acts can all fall into this category. Penalties for a fourth-degree indictable offense include:
- Up to 18 months in prison
- Fines up to $10,000
While there are many factors that influence the penalties a successful conviction carries, many indictable offenses do have a mandatory minimum that judges are required to sentence. However, judges may allow a defendant to serve a portion of their sentence under probation if the situation calls for it.
Getting Released While an Indictable Offense is Pending
New Jersey’s bail system operates on the presumption that no criminal defendant should be held in custody prior to their trial date. Being charged with a crime and convicted of a crime are two separate instances. When you are arrested, a judge will perform a public safety assessment to determine if a defendant should be held in pretrial detention. The ruling is judged based on the situational risk of the defendant committing additional criminal offenses or failing to appear for their court date. If the first point is at high risk, a defendant may be kept in jail until their trial. However, if the second point is at high risk, a defendant may be released on bail. If neither has a high-risk factor, a judge may determine that a defendant can be released on reputation.
Defenses for an Indictable Offense in NJ
If you are charged with an indictable offense in NJ, it’s important that you contact your attorney as soon as possible to begin building your defense. A successful conviction and charge for an indictable offense can have long-lasting consequences on your record. Having a lawyer present can help you fight your charges and determine the best course of action moving forward.
Defending an indictable charge in NJ isn’t always easy, but it can help reduce the penalties you might face. Working with a criminal defense attorney can help you defend your case and understand your charges. If you’re facing a charge for an indictable offense in NJ, contact Attorney Leon Matchin today. Attorney Matchin has dedicated his practice to defending his clients and securing favorable outcomes from their trial. You can call Attorney Matchin at 732-887-2479 or email him at [email protected] for help with your case.