New Jersey Criminal Law: An Overview

While New Jersey is the 11th most populous state in the country, it is also one of the safer states as it ranked 37th in violent crimes in 2014. Similarly, its largest city, Newark, is only New Jersey's seventh most dangerous city and the 51st most dangerous city in the nation. However, New Jersey's ninth most populous city, Camden, also ranks as the second most dangerous city in the nation.

New Jersey Felonies and Misdemeanors

Unlike other states, New Jersey does not classify its crimes as felonies and misdemeanors. Instead, it has three unique crime classes (in order of most to least serious): indictable offenses, disorderly person offenses, and petty disorderly person offenses. These crime classes are then subdivided into different degrees.

Indictable offenses are the most serious crimes under New Jersey penal law. There are four degrees of indictable offenses, the lowest of which (fourth degree crimes) include certain robbery and DUI offenses, forgery, and stalking. Penalties for indictable offenses include up to a $200,000 fine and between 18 months and a lifetime imprisonment sentence.

Disorderly person offenses are less serious crimes than indictable offenses but are still as serious as assault and resisting arrest. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Petty disorderly offenses are the lowest class of crimes and include penalties of up to a $500 fine and no more than 30 days in jail.

New Jersey DUI Laws

Like every other state, New Jersey bans intoxicated driving. Intoxication is a broad term that includes the debilitating effects of alcohol, drugs, and prescription medications. It is illegal in New Jersey for any driver to operate a vehicle under the influence of any intoxicating substance.

If a driver is caught driving a vehicle under the influence, he or she can be charged with a DUI. There are no minimum illegal intoxication levels for drugs or medication. However, a driver who registers at 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content (BAC) or higher from chemical testing exceeds the state's legal limit. The first DUI conviction can earn a driver at minimum:

  • A prison term of up to 30 days
  • $3,775 in fines and surcharges (total)
  • A three-month license suspension

New Jersey Prosecutors File Criminal Charges

Many people think that police officers decide who gets charged with a crime. The police are responsible for investigating crimes, gathering evidence and sometimes also testifying in court. But prosecutors—including district attorneys, United States attorneys, states attorneys and others—ultimately decide whether a suspect is prosecuted or not. New Jersey has a large network of district attorneys that prosecute state criminal laws in the state.

Capital Punishment in New Jersey

The death penalty was abolished in New Jersey in 2007. The last eight inmates on death row had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment without parole. The highest penalty in New Jersey is life imprisonment without parole.

Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in New Jersey has the right to mount a vigorous defense. A qualified New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.

Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.

A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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