Types of Criminal Cases in New Jersey

Those who are found guilty of a criminal case face heavy and life-changing penalties — however, what is considered a criminal case? The definition of civil and criminal cases and the punishments for being found guilty can vary by state. If you’re interested in learning what criminal cases are in the state of New Jersey, here’s an overview of how they’re defined and what each degree entails.

New Jersey’s Definition of a Criminal Case

In New Jersey, a criminal case is initiated when the government charges a person accused of committing a criminal act with a violation of criminal law. This differs from a civil case, where private parties may file legal actions against each other to resolve disputes. 

Criminal cases involve the enforcement of laws designed to protect society and maintain public order. The outcome hinges on whether there is enough evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt — a higher standard of proof than in civil trials.

What Are New Jersey’s Degrees of Crime?

First Degree

First-degree crimes in New Jersey encompass the most severe offenses, including murder, rape, and armed robbery. These crimes are considered especially harmful to society and victims, which is why they warrant the most stringent penalties under state law. 

The prosecution must demonstrate the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, with the court hearing evidence from both the criminal defense attorney and the prosecution. Conviction for a first-degree crime can lead to a long prison sentence, often ranging from 10 years to life in prison. This severity is a reflection of the seriousness of these offenses and their impact on victims and the community.

Second Degree

Second-degree crimes include offenses like aggravated assault, certain drug offenses, and burglary. These are serious crimes that carry significant penalties but are viewed as slightly less severe than first-degree crimes. 

The legal process requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant committed the act, with the jury or judge deciding based on the evidence presented. A conviction for a second-degree crime can result in a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years.

Third Degree

Third-degree crimes in the state include some types of theft, arson, and certain drug possession charges. These crimes are punishable by a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years. However, individuals who do not have a previous criminal history can be sent to probation instead of prison.

Fourth Degree

Fourth-degree crimes in New Jersey are considered less severe but still warrant legal action, including charges such as stalking, specific types of assault, and petty theft. The penalties for fourth-degree crimes have potential jail time of up to 18 months. 

Disorderly Persons Offense

A disorderly person’s offense in New Jersey — while not classified as a crime per se — represents a violation of public order, such as minor assault, shoplifting items of relatively low value, and some traffic violations. These offenses can lead to fines, probation, or jail time of up to 6 months and are not as severe as indictable crimes.

If You’re Face a Criminal Trial in New Jersey, Reach Out to the Law Offices of Zapicchi & Liller

At The Law Offices of Zapicchi & Liller LLP, our skilled criminal attorneys are committed to providing defendants with the best representation possible in criminal court. The criminal defense attorneys at our firm specialize in many different cases and have the experience to ensure that your criminal trial receives the attention it deserves. 

Contact us to learn more about the criminal and civil cases we help with and to schedule a consultation.