New Jersey Crime Classifications: First, Second, Third, and Fourth Degree Charges

In New Jersey, criminal offenses (non-disorderly) fall into several categories of degrees of severity- first, second, third, and fourth.  For the purposes of this installment, I am going to cover the types of crimes and penalties associated that fall into the categories of first and second-degree criminal acts. These are the most serious types of offenses; with 1st degree being the most serious, 2nd being one level of severity down, and so on.

If you were charged with an indictable offense in New Jersey, contact Lombardo Law Group, LLC today for a free consultation. Atlantic City criminal defense attorney Joseph Lombardo is available 24/7 at (609) 445-4300.

An Overview of First and Second Degree Crimes in New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, 1st and 2nd degree crimes carry something called a “presumption of imprisonment.”  Essentially, that means if you are found guilty of a 1st or 2nd degree crime, you could and may likely incur jail time as a penalty. Charges that carry these types of degrees are typically considered violent or excessive. Type of criminal charges that fall into these categories:

First Degree Crimes

  • Murder
  • Aggravated Manslaughter
  • Armed Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Vehicular Manslaughter (in some instances)
  • Distribution of Narcotics (depending on the quantity)
  • Certain Types of Other Violent Crimes

Second Degree Crimes

  • Certain Types of Sexual Assaults
  • Aggravated Assault (without injury)
  • Unarmed Robbery
  • Endangering the Welfare of a Child
  • Drug Possession and Distribution Crimes
  • Property Theft of Certain Values

Penalties for First and Second Degree Charges in New Jersey

A conviction for a first degree offense can be punishable by 10-20 years in prison and up to $200k in fines.  Very serious criminal charges such as murder in the first degree can carry longer penalties.  Second degree convictions typically can carry a prison sentence of 5-10 years and fines of up to $150k.  Other penalties can include the loss of your right to vote, loss of right to own a firearm, mandatory counseling, parole, probation, registration as a sex offender, and being responsible for costs and fines associated with any of these other penalties.

An Overview of Third and Fourth Degree Crimes in New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, 3rd and 4th degree criminal charges are less serious than 1st and 2nd degree charges and do not carry the same ‘presumption of imprisonment’ as first and second degree offenses.   What that means is that if you are found guilty of a 1st or 2nd degree of crime, there is a very strong possibility that you will face prison time.  The potential prison sentence you face if convicted of a 3rd or 4th degree crime is comparatively less and there is an overall greater chance of leniency in sentencing.  Sentences can be even more lenient if you do not have a previous conviction on your criminal record.

However, these types of lesser sentences are still serious matters can still carry jail time attached if you are convicted.  A 3rd degree crime carries potential punishment ranging anywhere from probation to five years imprisonment or a combination therein.   A list is provided below, but common 3rd degree crimes include property damage, most drug charges, theft (home and retail) and most assault cases.

A 4th degree crime is considered less serious and carries potential punishment ranging from probation to 18 months imprisonment.  Common 4th degree crimes include drug charges, some sex crimes (including stalking) and violent crimes.

Third Degree Crimes

  • Narcotics related charges
  • Theft charges
  • Damage to property
  • Burglary
  • Most types of assault charges

Fourth Degree Crimes

  • Narcotics charges
  • Some types of sexual assaults
  • Certain types of theft charges
  • Some types of assault charges
  • Stalking
  • Shoplifting

Contact Our Atlantic City Criminal Defense Attorneys About Your Charges

If you have been charged with a first, second, third, or fourth degree crime in New Jersey, it is advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney to help you present the best possible defense. Lombardo Law Group, LLC has been representing clients charged with these types of serious crimes in Southern NJ for two decades. Joseph Lombardo is a former Municipal Court Prosecutor and is an experienced criminal defense attorney. He will challenge the evidence and circumstances surrounding your arrest, and work to have the charges against you reduced or dropped.

Obviously, the stakes and consequences of a conviction in cases of this magnitude are high. When we defend clients against charges of this nature, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Joseph Lombardo always prepare your case for the possibility of going to trial. We will challenge evidence, the circumstances surrounding your arrest and investigation, and work to have the charges against you dismissed or lessened, but often in cases such as these, it may be necessary to go to trial to present your defense. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey and are seeking a criminal defense attorney, please contact us today for a free, initial consultation. Joseph Lombardo will personally meet with you and discuss the nature of your case, the severity of the charges you are facing, and what the best defense against those charges is.  Mr. Lombardo is available to make jail or prison visits in cases of emergency. Lombardo Law Group, LLC is available 24/7 at (609) 445-4300.

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