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Understanding Felonies vs Misdemeanors in New Jersey (and Beyond)

24th January 2022 Print

Everyone should read up on the legal system in their region, as being informed is the only way you can get the upper hand whether you are the victim of a crime or you need to defend yourself against a criminal case.

One key distinction to get your head around is that of the difference between felonies and misdemeanors. This is important no matter where you are, so let’s delve into this intriguing topic and see how things stand in New Jersey and many other states.

Getting experienced legal representation in New Jersey

The first thing to point out is that if you really want to expand your appreciation for the subject of felonies, misdemeanors and anything relating to legal matters, working with professionals is better than relying solely on your own research.

Specialists like those at Middlesex County Criminal Law are ideally positioned to give you both the advice you need, as well as the effective representation that will serve you well whatever trials you face, literally and figuratively.

What makes a misdemeanor?

As the name suggests, a misdemeanor is a crime that is generally seen as being at the less serious end of the spectrum, although this can be misleading when it comes to the kinds of punishment that they are liable to result in after a conviction.

States like New York have several subcategories of misdemeanors, as well as standalone crimes that are not defined within this structure. For example, assault is a Class A misdemeanor in this part of the country, while prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor.

Class A misdemeanors can come with up to 12 months jail, followed by a period of probation, and a fine of $1,000 or more. Class B counterparts will usually result in no more than 90 days behind bars, and fines of $500 or more.

Here’s where things get a little trickier; New Jersey doesn’t actually make use of the word ‘misdemeanor’ in its legal system, which is unusual.

Instead, the equivalent is known as a disorderly person crime, with a petty disorderly person crime being a lower-tier counterpart in terms of the severity of the act and the punishments.

For all intents and purposes, these tiers are interchangeable with the Class A and Class B misdemeanors in New York.

What about felonies?

Throughout much of the US, felonies are crimes which are considered to be especially serious, and thus warrant tougher punishments.

From murder to DUI offenses, felonies are a real step up from misdemeanors, and can carry prison sentences of 18 months to life, as well as fines of between $5,000 and $200,000 or more. 

In states where the death penalty is still in place, this can also be the ultimate punishment for the most extreme felonies.

Once again, New Jersey is different in the way it describes felonies, instead choosing to call them indictments and categorizing them across four degrees of severity.

First degree crimes include the aforementioned murder, as well as rape. Second degree crimes can cover things like kidnapping and sexual assault.

Third degree crimes factor in things like aggravated burglary and arson, while fourth degree crimes is a category that features DUIs, shoplifting and so on.

Why does this matter?

If you are aware of the laws on crime and the likely punishments, you will be better equipped to know how to handle the fallout of any criminal incident that you become embroiled in, no matter which side of the scenario you are on.

In turn if you need legal representation, you will be able to make an informed decision and should also be able to choose an attorney who understands the ins and outs of local laws.

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