27 Nov 23

Understanding the Different Types of Crimes in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:57 pm

Understanding the Different Types of Crimes in New Jersey

New Jersey has its fair share of criminal statutes — after all, the Garden State densely packs nearly 9 million residents into just under 8,800 square miles. With lots of people comes lots of opportunity for both petty and serious infractions.

This article provides an overview of some of the most common categories of crimes in NJ, ranging from minor offenses to violent felonies. We’ll also discuss potential penalties and defenses that skilled criminal defense attorneys may raise.

Minor Crimes & Disorderly Persons Offenses

Less serious crimes in New Jersey fall under the banner of “disorderly persons offenses.” These are roughly equivalent to misdemeanors in other states. Disorderly persons offenses can include things like:

  • Shoplifting
  • Simple assault (causing minor injury)
  • Creating a public disturbance
  • Petty theft
  • Possession of a small amount of marijuana

The maximum penalties for disorderly persons offenses are up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, first-time offenders often receive probation or community service.

Common Criminal Charges

More serious infractions in NJ qualify as actual “crimes” rather than petty disorders. Some of the most common criminal offenses charged include:

Drug Crimes

Property Crimes

  • Burglary
  • Larceny/theft
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Identity theft
  • Arson
  • Vandalism/criminal mischief

Violent Crimes

Sex Crimes

Weapons Charges

White Collar Crimes

Understanding Criminal Penalties

Punishments for crimes in New Jersey vary widely depending on the:

  • Type of offense
  • Severity (degree of crime)
  • Defendant’s criminal history
  • Aggravating/mitigating factors
  • Judicial discretion

In New Jersey, there are 4 degrees of crimes, ranging from 1st-degree (most serious) to 4th-degree (least serious). The maximum sentences for each degree are:

  • 1st degree — 10-20 years in prison
  • 2nd degree — 5-10 years in prison
  • 3rd degree — 3-5 years in prison
  • 4th degree — Up to 18 months in prison
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In addition to incarceration, courts can impose significant fines and restitution. Certain offenses may also require forfeiture of assets/property and license suspensions.

Defending Against Criminal Charges

Skilled criminal defense lawyers have many strategies for fighting charges, getting charges reduced/dismissed, or mitigating penalties. Common defenses include:

Insufficient Evidence

Police and prosecutors must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” By picking apart flaws in the state’s case, an attorney can often raise doubt and beat the charges.

Illegal Search & Seizure

If evidence was obtained illegally (e.g. through an invalid search warrant), defense lawyers can file suppression motions to get that evidence excluded. This can gut the prosecution’s case.


Eyewitness misidentification is a leading cause of wrongful convictions. An alibi or other evidence proving the defendant wasn’t the perpetrator can defeat charges.


Use of force was legally justified to protect oneself from harm. Available as a defense to assault, homicide, and other violent crimes.


Undercover police induced the defendant to commit an offense they otherwise wouldn’t have. Courts bar prosecutions rooted in entrapment.

Insanity/Diminished Capacity

Mental defect prevented the defendant from appreciating the nature/consequences of their actions. Can negate intent requirements.

Statute of Limitations

Too much time has passed since the alleged crime, barring prosecution. Time limits vary by offense.

This overview just scratches the surface of New Jersey’s complex criminal laws and defenses. Those facing charges should consult an attorney ASAP to discuss their options. With an experienced legal advocate in their corner, many defendants can achieve favorable outcomes.