When it comes to crime, the laws of the various states are somewhat similar. A crime such as murder is going to be understood much the same way in New Jersey as it is in any other state.
But how a state defines criminal activity often differs slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This can result in some confusion if someone from one state winds up arrested and charged with a crime in another state.
The legal system may be an alien environment to start with. And when it comes time to appear in court, it can seem that an altogether different language is being spoken. That’s just one of the many reasons why it’s always important to have the help of an experienced attorney.
Another area in which states differ may be in the penalties that might be meted out in the event of a conviction. Once again, in the context of criminal defense, it is crucial to understand what could happen in order to identify and fight for an optimal outcome.
The framework used to define crime and punishment in New Jersey is one based on categorization. The more serious the degree of the charge, the more severe the possible penalties could be.
If you happen to be accused of some municipal ordinance violation, such as underage drinking or being too noisy, that would be a low degree charge and likely result in your being fined and sentenced to some form of community service.
Up the scale from that are traffic offenses, which could result in fines, a license suspension and possible jail time. The next rung up deals with disorderly persons offenses — petty and more serious. At the low end might be a charge for fighting, but it could be elevated to something more serious depending on circumstances.
Indictable offenses are the most serious, but even they get parsed out by degree. A fourth-degree offense, such as shoplifting, might result in you going to jail for six months. A third-degree offense might be brought for burglary and some assaults and yield a jail term of up to five years. Convictions of a second-degree charge could see the defendant sent to prison for from five to 10 years.
In the event a person is convicted of a first-degree offense, such as murder, rape or armed robbery, the prison term could be 20 years.