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Felony, Misdemeanor, and Infraction in New Jersey

The state of New Jersey does not separate crimes as felonies and misdemeanors. Offenses are classified instead as 

  • Indictable criminal offenses
  • Disorderly person offenses, and 
  • Petty disorderly personal offenses. 

In New Jersey's criminal laws, there is a distinction between "indictable criminal offenses" and "disorderly person offenses." Crime is also called indictable crime, while less serious offenses are known as disorderly person offense, and petty disorderly person offenses (D-P offenses). Criminal cases in New Jersey are adjudicated within the state's criminal courts. Individuals who are interested can submit requests to the relevant court to obtain records of New Jersey criminal court proceedings.

Crimes are more severe than offenses.

What is a Felony in New Jersey?

Indictable crimes are to New Jersey what felonies are to other states in the country.

In New Jersey, an indictable crime attracts severe punishments with a jail sentence of at least one year.

According to the New Jersey Criminal Justice Process, indictable crimes are grouped into degrees. They are;

  • First Degree Crimes
  • Second Degree Crimes
  • Third Degree Crimes
  • Fourth Degree Crimes

First-degree crimes are the most severe of the four classes. In contrast, fourth-degree crimes are the least indictable severe offenses.

According to the term "indictable," individuals charged with this crime will stand before a grand jury. The grand jury will evaluate the case before they determine if there is a piece of sizable evidence to refer the case to a court. If enough evidence is available, the defendant will have to stand trial for the alleged crime. 

The grand jury usually issues an indictment. It is an official written document that outlines the criminal charges set against a defendant.


The New Jersey law vests power on the judge in a criminal case to determine proper sanctions for each indictable crime. The judge punishes each category of offense per the terms and conditions of imprisonment, as stated in the New Jersey Sentencing Statute.

First Degree Crimes:

An elementary prison sentence ranging from ten to twenty years or as much as twenty, twenty-five, or thirty years are possible sanctions imposed by the court. Very severe crimes like murder attract a life imprisonment sentencing.

The court may also order the payment of a fine of as much as 200,000 USD.

Second Degree Crimes:

For a second degree felony, convicts may be required to serve a prison term ranging from five to ten years. In addition to this, the court may also impose a fine of as much as 150,000 USD.

Third Degree Crimes:

Third-degree crimes attract sanctions of three to five years in prison plus a fine of up to 15,000 USD.

Fourth Degree Crimes:

The penalties for fourth-degree crimes may range from a prison sentence of eighteen months and an additional fine of up to 10,000 USD. They are the least severe class of indictable crimes.

The state's laws give room for primary sentencing for each category of indictable crimes. Basic sentences may range from three to ten years, depending on the degree of crime. 

The state's sentencing statutes also demands the court to order extended sentences for specific crimes like aggravated murder. Extended sentences include up to 20 years to life imprisonment. 

The laws also demand that offenders be sentenced to a minimum of a specific term in jail for particular crimes. This clause may be dependent on circumstances surrounding such crimes. 

Convicts may also be required to serve full time or part-time probation as opposed to a prison sentence for certain crimes.

Statutes of limitations clauses exist in New Jersey's criminal law. These clauses give the state a time limit to begin prosecution. Once the allotted time elapses, a defendant has the right to file for a case dismissal.

The time limit begins at the time a crime is committed or assumed to have been committed.

Different crimes have different statutes of limitations.

But in New Jersey, there is no statute of limitations clause for cases relating to crimes such as murder.

What are some examples of felonies in New Jersey?

Based on each degree of crime, here are some examples of felonies in New Jersey 

  • First-degree crimes 
    • Murder
    • Rape
    • Manslaughter
  • Second degree:
    • Sex-related crimes
    • Kidnapping
    • Burglary
    • Drug-related crimes
    • Aggravated arson
  • Third-degree crimes:
    • Arson
    • Possession of hard drugs
    • Theft (of some sort)
    • Certain instances of Driving While Intoxicated (DUI)
  • Fourth-degree crimes:
    • Stalking
    • Some theft crimes
    • Forgery.

In New Jersey, first-time and repeated offenses often determine the classification of crimes.

An example is stalking, where it is categorized as a fourth-degree crime for first-time offenders. Still, a repeat against the same individual is classified as a third-degree crime.

Can an Individual get Felony Removed from a Court Record in New Jersey?

Yes. Removing a felony from a court record is possible in New Jersey. This process is called expungement. 

The laws of New Jersey as regards expungement were stricter until 2018 when they were revised. The new bill S-3307 has increased the chances of expunging many more adult indictable crimes from a court record.

Some of the new changes include:

  • The new law decreased the waiting period for indictable criminal convictions' expungement from ten years to six years. Some individuals can apply for the expungement of crimes as early as five years, provided they meet certain criteria.
  • The new law eliminates the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) bar that prevented some felons from becoming eligible for expungement.
  • Pending fine payments is no longer a yardstick for expungement under the new law provided certain measures are put in place by the court.

A convicted individual must have waited for six years after completing a prison term.

The court must make provisions for payment of fines in installments or reach an agreement with the individual for the amount of money owed.

Multiple felony crimes can now be expunged under the new law, under the following circumstances:

  • The felony convictions occurred at the same time and were listed in the same period of events.
  • The felony convictions were similar offenses that stemmed from a series of events that occurred within a short time interval.

The new bill S-3308 in the revised law cuts down the waiting period for juvenile indictable crimes from five to three years.

Is Expungement the Same as Sealing Court Records in New Jersey?

No. Expungement is not the same as sealing a court record in New Jersey.

Sealing a criminal record implies that the criminal record is removed from public records and inaccessible to the public. A sealed record is only a mirage, as it were. It can be unsealed by court order, thereby making it accessible to a person who requests that it be unsealed.

Employers, schools, and other agencies always love to examine the criminal records of individuals to see if they were previously convicted of a crime. When an account is sealed, it does not show in a public record. 

However, individuals like employers might seek to undergo thorough checks to ensure that a potential employer has a clean record. They may, because of this, tender a request to a court to unseal a criminal record. In some cases, the court may grant their requests to unseal a criminal record.

Expungement, however, goes beyond sealing a record. Expungement clears individuals off totally. Expunging a record makes it looks as though an individual was never convicted of a crime. Individuals who have successfully expunged their criminal records are legally allowed to say they have never committed a crime.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on an Individual's Record in New Jersey?

It depends on several circumstances. The waiting period for filing for an expungement, the severity of the crime committed, and the eligibility of convicts are essential determinants.

Today, New Jersey's new criminal record expungement laws make it easier for individuals to expunge their records more quickly.

The waiting period for felony expungement is six years. Eligible individuals can thus file for expungement six years after they have completed their punishment.

The expungement process in itself takes a varying length of time. It depends on circumstances such as:

  • The nature of the indictable crime(s)
  • The disposition of the prosecutor towards expungement and 
  • The period in which the offense occurred.

What is a Misdemeanor in New Jersey?

Petty disorderly person offenses and disorderly person offenses (misdemeanors in other states) are less severe offenses that attract a prison sentence of one year at most.

Disorderly Person Offenses:

In New Jersey, disorderly person offenses are more serious offenses that attract a prison sentence of up to six months plus a fine of up to 1,000 USD.

Some examples of Disorderly Person Offenses include possession of fewer than 50 grams of marijuana and resisting a police arrest.

Petty Disorderly Person Offenses:

These offenses attract the least prison sanctions. Individuals convicted of a petty disorderly person offense could face a jail term of up to thirty days and could be fined up to 500 USD.

Harassment and misconduct are typical examples of this class of crime.

The time limit for most D-P offenses is one year. After this time elapses, accused individuals can file for a case dismissal.

What are some examples of Offences (Misdemeanors) in New Jersey?

There are many examples of misdemeanors in the state of New Jersey. The state's General Statutes gives a full list of offenses that are regarded as misdemeanors in the state.

  • Violation of city rules
  • Attempted theft and possession of stolen items 
  • Resisting arrest
  • Check fraud
  • Behavioral misconduct
  • DWI / DUI that does not lead to injury or homicide.
  • Possessing drug substances of a certain amount.
  • Trespass, property damage, and littering
  • Urinating in public
  • Public intoxication
  • Assaults and threats
  • Embezzlement of funds
  • Vandalism

Some of these crimes are also classified as municipal infractions.

Can an Individual Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in New Jersey?

Yes. A misdemeanor can be expunged from a court record. Several conditions determine eligibility:

  • Individuals must not have any pending criminal charges.
  • Convicts must have waited five years after they have completely served jail term or probation and paid all necessary fines.
  • Individuals must have fewer than four previous charges or convictions against them.
  • Those who have successfully expunged a criminal record in the past are not eligible for another expungement.

In New Jersey, the new criminal expungement law allows convicted persons to expunge more petty or disorderly crimes (from two to three).

Can a DUI Be Expunged in New Jersey?

No, the laws of the State of New Jersey do not permit the expungement of a DWI / DUI conviction.

Any crime or offense that is not a criminal offense is not eligible for expungement. DWI / DUI is not recognized as a criminal offense but as a traffic offense in New Jersey. Therefore, it is impossible to expunge a DUI conviction from an individual's driving record.

Successfully reopening a DWI / DUI conviction via Post Conviction Relief may allow individuals to have their DWI / DUI record expunged from their driving records. Certain criteria need to be met for this to happen.

What constitutes an Infraction in New Jersey?

Infractions are not criminal offenses. They are, however, violations that attract payment of fines as punishment. They are sometimes called municipal infractions or classified as petty disorderly person offenses.

In New Jersey, traffic violations are the most reported cases of infractions. 

Municipal law enforcement authorities in the state are responsible for the imposition of sanctions on anyone found guilty of an infraction.

Non-moving traffic violations are the least severe traffic violations. They are termed "non-moving" because they are traffic violations that occur when a vehicle is not in motion.

Traffic violations have a statute of limitations. Within this period, authorities must determine that an individual is guilty of an infraction. After the time limit elapses, accusations are rendered null, and the individual is cleared of all allegations.

The statute of limitations for an infraction in New jersey is thirty days, although there are exceptions. For example, infractions, such as operating an uninsured automobile, have a time limit of six months. This timeframe is for authorities to prove that an individual is guilty of the violation.

Other common traffic infractions with a longer statute of limitations include being found with an illegal license document and fleeing the scene of an accident.

What are some examples of Infractions in New Jersey?

Some common examples of infractions in New Jersey include:

  • Illegal parking
  • Poor vehicle maintenance 
  • Illegal modification of vehicles as opposed to regulatory standards
  • Noise making
  • Driving without a seatbelt on, etc.

Can Infractions be Expunged from a New Jersey Criminal Court Record?

Municipal infractions are not added to a person's criminal record. Therefore, they are not eligible for expungement. 

Some municipal infractions such as traffic crimes are recorded in a person's driving records. These records are also not eligible for expungement.

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