The Degrees of Crime In New Jersey

Posted October 23rd, 2017 by .

Categories: Legal Topics.

crime degreesMost people who have watched a television crime saga have heard the term crimes of the first degree or something along those lines. However, do you know what that means? Is there more than one degree of crime? Are these crimes hot or cold? Alright, maybe not that, but you see what we’re getting at.

Before we dive into that, let’s define crime.

According to Merriam-Webster, crime is an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government. In the Garden State, crimes are categorized as indictable crimes, disorderly person offenses, and petty disorderly person offenses; not felonies or misdemeanors.

These indictable crimes are classified by degrees from first to fourth; most serious to least serious. For a crime to be indictable, it must be reviewed by a grand jury and have enough evidence to support a formal charge.

Here are some examples of the different degrees of crime:

  • First degree crimes: manslaughter, murder, and rape
  • Second degree crimes: aggravated arson, burglary, kidnapping, drug crimes, sexual crimes
  • Third degree crimes: possession of controlled substances, other arson-related crimes, some DUI (driving under the influence) offenses
  • Fourth degree crimes: minor robbery offenses, some DUI offenses, stalking, forgery

If an offense is deemed a crime without specification of degree, is a crime of the fourth degree.

Some crimes are classified at different degrees contingent on whether the crime is a first or subsequent offense. For example, forgery is a fourth-degree crime for the first offense, but a second offense of forgery could be a higher degree crime.


Each degree of crime carries a certain penalty as well. They are as follows:

  • First degree: 10 – 20 years in prison (presumption of incarceration)
  • Second degree: 5 – 10 years in prison (presumption of incarceration)
  • Third Degree: 3 – 5 years in prison
  • Fourth Degree: 18-month maximum sentence

Clearly, certain crimes of the first degree can carry prison sentence of 25 years or more pending on the severity of your crime. The courts have the power to fine those who have committed the crime as well.

A first-degree crime can have a penalty worth up to $200,000. Second-degree and third-degree crime can have penalties of $150,000 and $15,000, respectively. Fourth-degree crimes can carry a fine of up to $10,000.

All of these penalties are very fluid, dependent upon what happens in the courtroom. If you have questions regarding the degrees of crime, or in need an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone today.

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