Charged with an Indictable Offense? What You Need to Know
If you’re facing criminal charges for the first time, there’s a good chance the legal lingo goes over your head. You may not even know if you’re charged with an indictable offense. Additionally, you might not grasp the gravity of the situation. More than likely, you’re just hoping that it isn’t your ticket to incarceration.
Just about everyone has heard the term “felony” and recognizes it as meaning a more serious charge. However, New Jersey doesn’t classify crimes as misdemeanors or felonies. For a moment, let’s look into felonies as they relate to indictable offenses.
Indictable Offenses Equate to Felonies
The New Jersey courts considered the definition of felony charges in State v. Doyle, 200 A. 2d 606 – NJ: Supreme Court 1964. First, you should know that English common law divided criminal charges into treason, felonies, and misdemeanors. Subsequently, a number of legal texts had a difficult time coming up with a definition of the term.
Going forward, it appears that a number of courts came up with a generic definition of felony charges. If the crime was bad enough to warrant a death sentence or time in state prison, it was considered to be a felony. Like many other states, New Jersey came up with its own classification concerning criminal charges. According to the Doyle decision, crimes that are considered indictable offenses are “equitable” with felony charges.
In New Jersey, an indictment occurs when a grand jury finds enough evidence to suggest that a serious crime has been committed. As you most likely know, the death penalty was abolished from New Jersey’s books several years ago. Nevertheless, certain criminal convictions can represent a long term sentence in state prison.
Being indicted does not mean there is a finding of guilt. However, if you have been arrested for an indictable offense, you should seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. You will want to do everything you can to avoid or limit your prison term.
Classification of New Jersey Crimes
In New Jersey, criminal offenses are divided into four classifications as outlined in NJSA 2C:43-1. To better your understanding, we have broken them down as follows, and provided some examples:
- Crime of the First Degree: Defendants charged with first degree crimes are facing the harshest penalties as first-degree crimes are considered the most serious. Murder, rape and armed robbery are examples of first-degree
- Crime of the Second Degree: Many drug charges are considered crimes of the second degree. Additionally, eluding and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury fall into this classification.
- Crime of the Third Degree: Certain shoplifting and drug possession charges are crimes of the third degree. Aggravated assault that did not cause serious bodily injury is another example of a crime of the third degree.
- Crime of the Fourth Degree: Depending on the value of merchandise shoplifted, the defendant can be charged with a crime of the fourth degree. Other examples of crimes of the fourth degree include lewdness, promoting prostitution and limited marijuana distribution charges.
Here’s the important thing to know about an indictable offense. If you are convicted and sentenced to jail, you could wind up in state prison. NJSA 2C:43-10 calls for a state prison term for anyone set to be incarcerated over a year.
We Want to Help
The bottom line is that every defendant is innocent until proven guilty. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we consider it a privilege to advocate on behalf of our clients. If you have been charged with an indictable offense, we can help. Give us a call as soon as possible!