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Indictment

Indicted for a First Degree, Second Degree, Third Degree & Fourth Degree Crime

An indictable offense,  also known as a felony in other states, is a category of charge under New Jersey Criminal Code. Offenses falling within this classification fall within four (4) grades of crime, namely,  first degree, second degree, third degree or fourth degree. With the limited exception of an initial arraignment in the municipal court of the town where the offense allegedly occurred, all proceedings involving indictable charges are heard at the Essex County Superior Court, 50 West Market Street, Newark NJ.

What Is An Indictable Crime?

The term “indictable” is used because charges falling within this category carry a right to presentation to grand jury. An indictable offense cannot be prosecuted unless an indictment has been returned by a grand jury. The only exception to this rule is where there is a waiver of indictment executed by the accused, in which case the case can proceed via accusation. This is a common procedure used by litigants seeking to resolve charges pre-indictment. Absent a waiver, every defendant has the absolute right to have his or her case heard by a grand jury. This rights does not, however, prevent police from arresting someone on a first degree, second degree, third degree or fourth degree crime. So long as there is probable cause to believe that the offense has been committed, an individual may be charged, arrested and taken into custody.

Grand Jury Proceedings in Essex County

Provided a waiver has not been executed, the Essex County Prosecutors Office must present every indictable case to a grand jury. A grand jury is a panel of twenty-three (23) residents of the county selected at random from tax, motor vehicle and other public records. The members of the grand jury will listen to the facts presented by the prosecutor and, based on the evidence presented, will determine whether or not there is a reasonable basis for the criminal offense charged. It is important to keep in mind that there is no obligation for the prosecutor to present or even inform the grand jury of the defendant’s side of the story. Furthermore, there is no right on the part of an accused or their attorney to be present at grand jury proceedings.

Examples of Indictable Crimes

There are literally hundreds of first, second, third and fourth degree crimes set forth under New Jersey Law. The following is a brief listing of some of the more common offenses for which individuals are indicted in Essex County.

• Distribution of CDS
Possession of Heroin
• Robbery
Aggravated Assault
• Possession of an Illegal Handgun

In most cases, an indictable offense like those listed will fall into different multiple degrees depending on the underlying facts surrounding the violation. A first degree crime is the most serious grade and fourth degree is the least severe charge for which someone can be indicted.  First and second degree charges, being more severe, carry a presumption of incarceration (prison time). In contrast, third and fourth degree charges carry a non-presumption of incarceration if someone has no prior criminal record. A first degree crime can result in ten (10) to twenty (20) years of imprisonment as well as a fine of up to $200,000.00. A second degree crime results in five (5) to ten (10) years in prison and a fine as high as $150,000.00. A third degree crime carries a presumptive period of incarceration of three (3) to five (5) years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.00. The prison term for a fourth degree crime can reach 18 months, along with a fine of $10,000. It should be kept in mind, however, that these are merely the standard penalties and, that in many cases, the law sets higher limits for maximum fines and prison terms.

For further assistance from a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer in Essex County, possibly one of our former county prosecutors, you can call 973-710-1520. Initial consultations by telephone or in our Newark office are always free of charge.