Grading Crimes – How to Determine the Degree of a Criminal Offense in NJ – N.J.S.A. 2C:43-1

“In New Jersey, there are four degrees of crimes.  These are determined by the New Jersey statute 2C:43-1 which outlines the amount of prison time for each degree of crime, in addition to the potential fine that a convicted individual might receive.  The smallest degree of crime is that of the fourth degree, with the largest being a crime of the first degree.”

How do I tell what degree of crime I'm charged with NJ

In most states and in the federal judicial system, the most serious criminal offenses someone can commit (murder, terrorism, sexual assault, racketeering, etc.) are called felonies, somewhat less serious crimes (assault, some non-violent drug possession offenses, vandalism, etc.) are called misdemeanors, and traffic offenses and minor or quasi-criminal offenses are called infractions. New Jersey does not use these categories. New Jersey classifies the most serious crimes as “indictable offenses,” less serious crimes as “disorderly persons offenses,” and quasi-criminal or non-criminal offenses as traffic offenses, municipal offenses, or petty disorderly persons offenses. An indictable offense, which is the same as a felony elsewhere, can fall into four distinct levels of severity or “degrees.”

The following are the degrees of crimes and associated penalties in New Jersey:

First degree crimes can be punished by 10 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000.  In some cases, murder for example, a convicted felon might receive a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Second degree crimes can be punished by 5 to 10 years in prison and potential fines of up to $150,000.

Third degree crimes can be punished by 3-5 years in prison with fines of up to $15,000.

Fourth Degree Crimes can be punished by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

If a crime is not designated any degree, it is considered to be a fourth degree crime. The only exception to this would be disorderly persons offenses, which are technically lower than a fourth degree crime, and are usually handled in the local Municipal Court.

First and second degree crimes carry with them a “presumption of incarceration”, which simply means that someone convicted of this level of crime is expected to go to prison, even if it’s a first offense and the person previously had no criminal record.

Who can tell me about the Degree of my Charges in New Jersey? Criminal Lawyer Needed

While it’s good to know some details about the grade of your crime, you should be focused on the details of exactly your charge. Our “common charges” menu might contain your case type, and will have a ton of great information, including ways that you can potentially beat your charges.  For more information and to speak with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer who can explain your charges and your potential options, please call The Tormey Law Firm at (201) 556-1570.


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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

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