Grading of Crimes: How Serious Is My Crime?
Every crime is serious, but the state of New Jersey does recognize that some are far more serious than others. Most states classify their crimes as either felonies or misdemeanors, but in New Jersey, lesser offenses are called “disorderly persons offenses” and serious offenses are “indictable crimes.”
Lesser offenses are further broken down into either disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly offenses, which are the least serious of all offenses. Serious or indictable crimes are classified as first degree, second degree, third degree, or fourth degree depending on the severity of the crime. Fourth degree crimes are the least serious of all indictable crimes, whereas first degree crimes are the most severe.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s important to know how it is classified so you can understand the severity of the charges.
Penalties: Will I Go to Jail or Prison?
Being charged with a crime is a frightening experience—especially when you could be sentenced to jail or prison. If you are facing criminal charges, it’s important to understand when jail or prison time is a possibility.
Each crime is classified as either a disorderly persons offense or indictable crime. Disorderly persons offenses are not as serious in nature. Being convicted of a disorderly persons offense can lead to a maximum of six months in jail, but prison is not a possibility. Of course, this does not mean that you will definitely go to jail if you are convicted. It’s a possibility, but some defendants, such as first-time offenders, may not receive any jail time at all.
Prison is on the table if you are convicted of an indictable crime. The least serious indictable crime can lead to up to 18 months in prison, whereas the most serious crimes can carry potential life sentences.
To put it simply, lesser offenses are punished with jail time, but severe offenses are punished with prison time.
The Police Did Not Read Me My Miranda Rights. What Happens Now?Police officers are legally required to inform you of your rights upon before questioning you following an arrest. These rights are knows as your Miranda rights. You may have believe that your charges will be dismissed if a police officer fails to read you these rights. But, this is not true. In order for your Miranda rights to be activated you must be under arrest and then must be subject to questioning. If you are not read these rights before, the evidence that is collected from the questioning may be thrown out since you were not aware of your right to remain silent or to have a lawyer at your side. It’s possible that getting this evidence thrown out will significantly weaken the prosecution’s case, especially if the evidence against you are your own words. If this happens, the prosecutor may have no choice but to reduce the charges or dismiss them altogether.
Search Warrants And Your Rights
The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement officers from conducting unreasonable searches of your person or property without a warrant based on probable cause.
A search warrant is a legal document signed by a judge that authorizes the search of a specific property. To obtain a search warrant, a law enforcement officer must submit a written statement to a judge that explains why the search is necessary. The officer must show that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed at the property or that evidence of a crime can be collected at the property. If the judge believes the officer’s argument is convincing, the search warrant will be signed and issued.
A search warrant will specifically state what property can be searched. For example, you have the right to deny an officer entry to your home if he only has a search warrant for your backyard.
Law enforcement officers don’t always need a search warrant in order to conduct a legal search. If you agree to the search, the officer does not need to get a warrant since you have given consent. Officers also do not need warrants if the evidence is in plain view, meaning it is easily spotted. The law gives officers the right to conduct a search of a person that is being arrested, too.
The final exception involves emergency situations. Law enforcement officers can conduct warrantless searches if they believe that waiting for a warrant would put the public in danger or lead to the loss of significant evidence.
Common Criminal Charges in New Jersey
There are countless different crimes in New Jersey, but some of the most common criminal charges include:
- Drug crimes
- Endangering the welfare of a child
If you are facing any of these criminal charges, seek legal representation from Steven Hernandez at once.
The possession, distribution, and manufacturing of controlled substances is prohibited in New Jersey. This may sound simple, but the drug laws are incredibly complex. Drug offenders can face a wide range of penalties that vary depending on the nature of the crime, type of drug, and amount of drug involved.
All drug offenses, except the possession of under 50g of marijuana, are indictable offenses that carry severe penalties including imprisonment and a criminal record. Drug charges also carry other collateral consequences, including travel restrictions to some foreign countries, including Canada, immigration consequences if you are not a citizen, and employment consequences.
People often confuse robbery and theft, but they are two distinct crimes. Robbery occurs when a person causes a serious bodily injury to, uses force on, or threatens another person while committing a theft. For example, using a gun during and demanding money from someone is robbery since you are threatening the person while committing theft.
This crime is either a first degree or second degree offense, depending on the nature of the crime. A robbery conviction can lead to a lengthy prison sentence, and offenders are required to serve at least 85% of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Burglary is the act of illegally entering a home, business, or other structure (including a car) with the intent to commit a crime once inside. It doesn’t matter whether or not the crime was actually committed—all that matters is that the accused had the intent to commit it.
Burglary is usually a third degree indictable crime, but it can be charged as a second degree crime if the accused hurt, attempted to hurt, or threatened to hurt someone while committing the crime.
There are a number of different types of theft crimes in New Jersey, including theft of lost property, theft by deception, and theft of services. But in general, theft is the act of unlawfully taking someone else’s property with no intent to return it.
Theft charges are either disorderly persons offenses or indictable crimes, depending on the value of the property that was stolen. Second-degree theft is the most serious of these types of crimes, and carries serious penalties including up to 10 years in prison. Theft offenders may be ordered to pay fines to the court and restitution to their victims as well.
Many people think of shoplifting as a minor crime, but that’s not the case. Some shoplifting charges are disorderly persons offenses, but others are classified as indictable crimes. The penalties that you will face for this crime will depend on the value of the property that was stolen. The penalties for shoplifting are similar to that of theft, except all third offenders must do at least 90 days to 6 months in jail.
There are civil penalties too. Retailers have the right to sue the shoplifter in order to recover the merchandise that was stolen or compensation for the merchandise and to ban you from ever returning to the store. In addition of you are not a U.S. Citizen, shoplifting is a crime of moral turpitude, and could cause deportation proceedings upon conviction.
Endangering the Welfare of A Child
New Jersey takes protecting children’s lives very seriously, which is why the state aggressively prosecutes cases that involve endangering the welfare of a child charges. You could face these charges if you are accused of engaging in any type of negligent conduct involving a child, including:
- Child abuse
- Child neglect
- Sexual assault of a child
- Leaving a child locked in a car
- Driving while intoxicated with a minor in the car
Endangering the welfare of a child is an indictable offense that carries some of the most serious penalties allowed by law. Because endangering can be either a second or third-degree crime, offenders could face anywhere from 3-10 years in prison depending on the nature of the crime.
There are two different assault charges in the state of New Jersey: simple assault and aggravated assault.
Simple assault can occur in one of three ways:
- Attempting to cause or causing bodily injury to another person, or
- Negligently causing bodily injury to another person by using a deadly weapon, or
- Attempting to put another person in fear of serious bodily injury
Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense that carries several penalties, including up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Like simple assault, aggravated assault can also occur in one of three ways:
- Attempting to cause serious bodily injury while acting with extreme indifference, or
- Recklessly causing bodily injury while using a deadly weapon, or
- Recklessly displaying extreme indifference to human life
Aggravated assault is a far more serious crime than simple assault. The severity of the penalties for aggravated assault can range from Fourth-Degree to Second degree, depending on (1) the intent of the attacker, (2) the severity of the injury, (3), who was injured, and (4) whether a weapon was used. The list and conditions is very long and confusing. Here is a list of common aggravated assault charges and their consequences.
There are civil penalties as well. Victims of assaults have the right to sue the attacker in order to recover costs of medical bills and lost wages.
Discuss Your Case During A Free Consultation
Have you been charged with a crime? If so, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from the experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Hernandez Law Firm at once. Let us aggressively defend your rights and work tirelessly to secure your freedom. To learn more about your legal options, schedule a free consultation by calling 732-286-2700 today.