Grading Criminal Charges in New Jersey

Grading Criminal Charges in New JerseyMost of us are familiar with the terms felonies, misdemeanors, and disorderly persons offenses, but actually understanding what each means and how they are treated is a different matter entirely. New Jersey criminal charges can be anywhere from first to fourth degree felony offenses, with lower grades of disorderly persons offenses not technically considered “criminal charges”. Today, our criminal defense attorneys will explain the different degrees of criminal and non-criminal charges in New Jersey and what impact that may have on our clients.

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges for violent crimesdrug crimessex crimestheft and fraudweapons offenses, or traffic violations, call our office today for a free and confidential consultation with a member of our experienced legal team.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor Charges in Passaic County, NJ

In most states, felonies and misdemeanors are both considered criminal charges, with the former denoting a more serious criminal act. In New Jersey, however, “misdemeanor” has been essentially replaced with disorderly persons to refer to lower graded offenses, and these cases are not heard in criminal court.

Felony charges can range from first to fourth degree, and are also referred to as indictable criminal offenses. Indictable offenses carry that name because the defendant has the legal right to present his or her case before a Grand Jury before a formal indictment. These cases are heard in New Jersey Superior court in front of a jury of peers.

Disorderly persons offenses are considered lesser than felony charges, and are heard in Municipal Court. This distinction means that disorderly persons offenses are legally not considered “criminal” matters. Municipal Court proceedings are determined by a judge rather than a jury. In many cases, disorderly persons convictions are also eligible for expungement after a certain time has passed.

Clifton Criminal Defense Attorneys Discuss Grading Crimes and Associated Penalties

Pursuant to New Jersey Revised Statutes Section 2C:43-1 – Degrees of crimes, criminal grades and their associated penalties are as follows. Note that if a criminal charge has no designated grade, it is considered to be a fourth degree charge.

First degree felony convictions may result from the most serious criminal cases including murder, aggravated manslaughter, drug distribution, or other violent crimes. Penalties may include:

  • Ten (10) years to life in state prison
  • Fines ranging up to $200,000
  • Permanent felony conviction on criminal record

Second degree felony convictions may result from criminal charges such as robbery, aggravated assault,  drug distribution, and more. Penalties may include:

  • Prison sentences between five (5) and ten (10) years
  • Fines up to $150,000
  • Felony conviction on permanent criminal record

Third degree felony convictions can be the result of violent crimes, weapons charges, narcotics possession, shoplifting, and many more. Associated penalties may include:

  • Between three (3) and five (5) years in state prison
  • Maximum fines of $15,000
  • Felony conviction on permanent public record

Fourth degree felony convictions are the most common criminal convictions, and can be the result of assault not leading to injurymarijuana possession, and unlawful prescription drug possession just to name a few. Associated penalties upon conviction include:

  • Maximum sentence of 18 months in State Prison
  • Fines ranging up to $10,000
  • Permanent felony conviction on permanent criminal record

Disorderly persons convictions are not considered criminal convictions in New Jersey, however, they will still appear on your criminal record. Examples of actions leading to disorderly persons charges may be trespassing, shopliftingsimple assault, or underage drinking. Penalties may include:

  • Maximum of six (6) months in county jail
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Mark on your criminal record (potentially able to be expunged)

Contact our Woodland Park Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

The criminal defense attorneys of The Montanari Law Group have extensive experience protecting the legal rights of clients from local New Jersey communities including Paterson, Wayne, Clifton, West Milford, Woodland Park, Little Falls, and all of Passaic County. Our firm believes in treating each of our clients with the compassion and respect we would hope to receive when facing serious criminal charges. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in New Jersey, you do not need to go through this legal battle alone.

Contact us online or through our Little Falls offices by calling (973) 233-4396 today for a free and confidential consultation with a member of our experienced criminal defense staff. We will walk you through your options and how we can best serve your individual needs.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.