What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
We have to first address the issue that there are no misdemeanors or felonies in the State of New Jersey. Instead, in New Jersey felonies are called indictable crimes. Misdemeanors are called disorderly persons offenses, which are not considered crimes.
The difference between an indictable crime and a disorderly persons offense is vast. First, indictable matters are handled in the county level by the County Prosecutor’s office or the Attorney General’s Office whereas disorderly persons offenses are handled by Municipal Prosecutors in the local Municipal Court.
There are two classifications of “misdemeanors” or less severe offenses in New Jersey, petty disorderly persons offenses and disorderly persons offense. The former can result in a sentence of up to six months in jail, while the latter can result in a maximum of six months incarceration. Penalties for these offenses will often include a fine as well. In some cases, the defendant may be required to pay a fine without having to serve jail time. Defendants charged with Disorderly Persons offenses usually have a greater chance of receiving probation rather than incarceration.
In New Jersey, crimes are ranked by four degrees, one being the most severe and fourth being the least serious. The penalties for indictable crimes vary depending on the degree of the crime, including fines and lengthy jail time. The punishment for Disorderly Persons offenses may not exceed six months of incarceration whereas indictable offenses carry a minimum 18 months of jail.
In addition, defendants are entitled to Grand Jury and Trial by Jury for Indictable offenses while such protections against unlimited and/or overbearing Government prosecutions are not available for disorderly persons offenses. Instead, a disorderly persons case is tried before a Municipal Court Judge by way of a bench trial.
The most important difference between misdemeanors and felonies is the impact each will have on your record. While an indictable conviction will result in a criminal record, a non- indictable conviction does not result in a criminal record. Having a record can haunt you for the rest of your life; affecting your reputation, potential job opportunities, and even your current employment. The more serious type of offense, the more challenging these aspects become.
Whether you have been charged with a Disorderly Persons offense or Indictable crime, you need an experienced attorney to help you fight the accusations. As your attorney, I may be able to have the charges reduced or dismissed. Contact the Law Offices of Leon Matchin, LLC today for a free consultation and learn how we can help protect your rights at 732-662-7658.