In New Jersey, we do not classify criminal offenses as either a felonies or a misdemeanors like most other states. Under our criminal justice system, we breakdown crimes into either indictable offenses or disorderly persons offenses / petty disorderly persons offenses. In essence, we treat indictable offenses as “felonies” and disorderly / petty disorderly persons offenses are “misdemeanors”.
Are Indictable Offenses the same Degree?
No. When it comes to indictable offenses in New Jersey, our criminal code has created four different degrees: a first degree, second degree, third degree and a fourth degree indictable offense. A first degree is the highest level indictable offense that someone could be facing. The degree of the indictable offense will dictate what the potential penalties are as well. Here is a quick breakdown of the jail time and potential fine for each degree.
- First Degree: 10 to 20 years in prison & a $200,000 fine
- Second Degree: 5 to 10 years in prison & a $150,000 fine
- Third Degree: 3 to 5 years in prison & a $15,000 fine
- Fourth Degree: 18 months in prison & a $10,000 fine
Where Do I go to Court for an Indictable Offense?
There are several major distinctions between indictable and disorderly person offenses, one of them being what court will have jurisdiction over the crime. All indictable matters will be prosecuted by the county prosecutor’s office in the county where the incident happened. For example, if a Defendant is arrested and charged with an indictable offense like aggravated assault in Lawrenceville, then those charges will be prosecuted by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office as opposed to the Lawrenceville Municipal Prosecutor. Furthermore, all indictable offenses will be litigated in Mercer County Superior Court, Criminal Division, which is located at 400 South Warren Street in Trenton.
Jury Trial or Bench Trial?
Another important distinction between indictable and disorderly persons offenses is the fact that any Defendant charged with an indictable offenses, regardless of whether it is a first or a fourth degree, will be entitled to a jury trial if they shall choose. With that being said, if the Defendant wishes, they could have what is known as a bench trial. During a bench trial, the Judge will be the sole trier of fact and it will be their decision of whether or not the Defendant is guilty. Conversely, anyone charged with a disorderly persons offense is not entitled to a jury trial, their only option is a bench trial.
Common Indictable Offenses issued in Mercer County NJ?
Mercer County as a whole issued just under 11,000 indictable offenses in 2016 alone. That is a tremendous amount of what is a relatively small county. Some of the most common indictable offenses that our attorneys see in Mercer County include:
- Unlawful Possession of a Weapon (GUN)
- Aggravated Assault
- Possession of Heroin
- Distribution of Heroin
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child
Can I get Bail on an Indictable Offense?
Based on the new bail reform, the prosecution now has the ability to detain a Defendant in the Mercer County Jail, without bail, pending trial. In order to do so, the prosecution must file for what is known as a Detention Hearing. During the Detention Hearing, the prosecution must establish by clear and convincing evidence that in order to:
- Protect Society from the Defendant;
- Prevent the Defendant from Obstructing the Prosecution of their Case; or
- Assure the Defendant’s Appearance in Court the Defendant must be detained.
This tends to happen more on first and second degree indictable offenses but it is not implausible for a Defendant who is facing a third or fourth degree felony to be forced to partake in a Detention Hearing. For more information on Detention Hearings in Mercer County, please contact our office at 609-789-0779.
Trenton NJ Felony Lawyer
If you have been arrested and issued a complaint for an indictable offense, it is crucial that you speak to an experienced Mercer County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As you can see from the above, the potential penalties that someone faces when they are charged with an indictable offense are life changing. If you have been issued a felony complaint in Mercer County, in towns like Lawrence, Hamilton, Ewing, Robbinsville, Hopewell, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton or Hightstown, the Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help. If you would like to speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys today about your options then please contact us at 609-789-0779.