No matter its exact nature, an accusation that you engaged in criminal behavior could permanently change your life and the course it may follow. Even an acquittal or not-guilty verdict could still lead to significant personal and professional consequences, and a conviction may leave you facing steep fines, significant time in prison, and potentially the permanent loss of certain civil rights.

If you want to give yourself the best possible odds for a favorable resolution to your charges, prioritize seeking counsel from an experienced attorney. With help from a Hackensack criminal defense lawyer, you could more effectively challenge the prosecution’s case while also protecting your rights.

How State Law Classifies Criminal Offenses

Unlike many states that designate crimes as either felonies or misdemeanors, New Jersey differentiates criminal violations of state law between “disorderly persons offenses” and “indictable offenses.” The first category, disorderly persons offenses” is classified as misdemeanors in other states. They include minor offenses, such as simple assault, drug paraphernalia possession, and disorderly conduct. Penalties upon conviction range from a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a petty offense, to six months of incarceration in county jail plus up to $1000 in fines for the upper tier of disorderly persons offenses.

Degrees of Indictable Offenses

“Indictable Offenses” are criminal acts that other states typically classify as felonies. According to New Jersey Revised Statutes §2C:43-1, there are four degrees of “indictable offenses” that a person in Hackensack may face charges for, with first-degree offenses being the most serious. N.J.R.S. §2C:43-6 establishes a range of potential prison sentences for each degree of offense, as listed below:

  • Fourth-degree offenses: 18 months maximum, with a presumptive sentence length of nine months
  • Third-degree offenses: Three to five years, with a presumptive sentence length of four years
  • Second-degree offenses: Five to 10 years, with a presumptive sentence length of seven years
  • First-degree offenses: 10 to 20 years, with a presumptive sentence length of 15 years

Additionally, law enforcement authorities and state legislators treat certain severe offenses such as murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault of a minor less than 13 years old as “first-degree-plus” offenses punishable by sentences greater than 20 years in length. A Hackensack attorney could go into more detail about the repercussions that could stem from a particular offense or combination of charges and provide options for a possible criminal defense.

Factors that Could Lead to Harsher Penalties Upon Conviction

As per N.J.R.S. §2C:44-1, there are several “aggravating circumstances” that a court might take into account when deciding whether to impose a sentence more or less severe than the presumptive sentence for an indictable offense. For example, a perception that the defendant is likely to re-offend in the future could lead to more severe sanctions upon conviction, while the defendant being of an advanced age could lead a judge to recommend a shorter prison term within the boundaries set by state law.

However, N.J.R.S. §2C:44-3 allows for extended sentences to be imposed against defendants who have repeatedly been convicted of indictable offenses. Additionally, N.J.R.S. §2C:43-7.1 allows for a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for individuals previously convicted of multiple violent and/or first-degree offenses. Representation from a tenacious criminal defense lawyer is often crucial to mitigating the risk of harsher consequences in Hackensack court.

Seek Help from a Hackensack Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether you are facing allegations of a disorderly persons offense or an indictable offense, you have important inalienable rights at all stages of your criminal prosecution. However, without help from experienced legal counsel, you may have a difficult time enforcing those rights and protecting your best interests.

Hiring a skilled Hackensack criminal defense lawyer could make a world of difference when it comes to preserving your prospects. Call today for a consultation.