New Jersey law used to identify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors like many other states continue to do. Today, New Jersey law generally classifies crimes as either indictable or non-indictable offenses. New Jersey law also calls non-indictable offenses disorderly persons offenses. Whether a crime is indictable or non-indictable affects the seriousness of the crime's punishment, the procedures the prosecution must follow before charging the crime, and the procedures the court will follow to determine whether the defendant should suffer conviction. Most New Jersey crimes qualifying for domestic violence enhancement are indictable crimes rather than non-indictable crimes. But that determination depends on the facts of your case, the available evidence supporting a charge, and the decisions the prosecutor makes as to how to charge the crime. Retain premier New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's criminal defense team for aggressive, effective, and winning defense of domestic violence charges.
New Jersey Domestic Violence Law
To understand whether your domestic violence case involves an indictable or non-indictable crime, consider this outline of New Jersey domestic violence law. Some states name one domestic violence crime. New Jersey instead enhances certain crimes when they occur against certain domestic victims. Under N.J. Stat. 2C:25-19a, crimes qualifying for domestic violence upgrade include homicide, assault, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, terroristic threats, harassment, lewdness, stalking, false imprisonment, kidnapping, criminal restraint, criminal mischief, and burglary. One must look to these underlying crimes to know whether your domestic violence case involves indictable or non-indictable offenses. Under N.J. Stat. 2C:25-19d, qualifying domestic violence victims include persons subjected to domestic violence by a spouse, former spouse, or other present or former household member, persons with whom the defendant has or is about to have a child in common, and persons with whom the defendant has had a dating relationship. Domestic violence enhancement for a crime directed against one of these persons may turn your non-indictable offense into an indictable offense.
Indictable Qualifying Domestic Violence Crimes
Of the several above crimes that qualify for domestic violence enhancement, most are indictable crimes. Homicide, aggravated assault, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, terroristic threats, harassment, stalking, false imprisonment, kidnapping, criminal restraint, and burglary are all indictable crimes, without even involving domestic violence enhancement. Significantly, domestic violence enhancement can turn a non-indictable offense into an indictable crime. But these crimes are already indictable offenses. Consult your New Jersey criminal defense attorney to determine which charges or potential charges are indictable before or after enhancement.
Non-Indictable Qualifying Domestic Violence Crimes
Among the above crimes qualifying for domestic violence enhancement, simple assault, lewdness, and criminal mischief are not ordinarily indictable crimes. Prosecutors instead often treat and charge them only as non-indictable offenses, often called disorderly persons offenses. Criminal mischief, though, can quickly turn into an indictable offense when the value of the property that the mischief destroys is greater than $500. Similarly, simple assault can easily turn into an indictable offense if the defendant has already suffered domestic violence conviction in an earlier case. Simple assault can also turn into indictable aggravated assault when involving an injury or weapon. Be sure to consult your New Jersey criminal defense attorney to determine which charges or potential charges are non-indictable before or after enhancement.
Differences Between Indictable and Non-Indictable Crimes
An indictable offense is one for which a prosecutor has sufficient evidence for a grand jury to indict the defendant. An indictment is a specification of the charges for which the prosecutor has presented sufficient evidence. Grand juries don't decide cases. Grand juries instead decide whether the prosecution may file charges for certain offenses. If a grand jury returns an indictment, confirming that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to charge an indictable crime, then the prosecution may proceed in criminal court with the charge, including having the defendant arrested. Non-indictable offenses do not require grand jury review of the prosecution's evidence. For a non-indictable offense charge, the prosecution may simply file the charge in the court, although prosecutorial ethics and court rules still require that the prosecution have sufficient evidence for the charge.
New Jersey law draws other important distinctions between indictable and non-indictable offenses. New Jersey law classifies indictable offenses into first degree, second degree, third degree, and fourth degree offenses. The offense degree determines the sentence range for both incarceration time and fines. First degree offenses can carry very long prison sentences of ten, twenty, twenty-five, or thirty years and stiff fines up to $200,000. Fourth degree offenses can carry as little as six months of jail time and a relatively modest fine. In contrast, non-indictable offenses generally carry a jail sentence of under six months and small fines. Indictable offenses must go before a jury if the defendant or prosecution desire and demand a jury. The judge decides a non-indictable offense without a jury. Indictable offenses may also be permanent on the defendant's record, while the defendant may be able to expunge a disorderly persons offense.
The Prosecution Role
Prosecutors have some discretion in whether to charge indictable or non-indictable crimes involving domestic violence enhancements. Prosecutors will often charge a first-time domestic violence offender only with a non-indictable disorderly persons offense. You can see from the above that defendants would generally strongly prefer to avoid indictable charges and prefer non-indictable charges, if charges are indeed coming. But prosecutors can have various reasons both related to the case and not related to the case for picking and choosing indictable and non-indictable offenses to charge. And the skilled and strategic action of your retained criminal defense attorney may help influence the prosecutor to forgo indictable charges or, for that matter, any charge at all. Retain New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for the best available domestic violence defense representation.
Defending Indictable and Non-Indictable Crimes
Your retained criminal defense attorney indeed can play an enormous role in determining the course, resolution, and overall outcome of your domestic violence case. Your single best move to ensure your best outcome is to retain the best available New Jersey criminal defense attorney. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm criminal defense team are available for your aggressive and effective defense of New Jersey domestic violence charges, whether involving indictable or non-indictable offenses. When you retain attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm criminal defense team, you get the winning investigation, litigation, negotiation, and advocacy you need. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now to retain attorney Lento.