How Do Aggravating Factors Enhance Criminal Sentencing in Atlantic City?

New Jersey prison terms for criminal offenses are expressed as ranges.  For example, a person convicted of a crime of the second degree may be sentenced to anywhere from five to 10 years in prison.  The length of the defendant’s sentence within this range depends heavily on whether there were any aggravating factors, or factors which increase the length of a defendant’s sentence.  Here, our Atlantic City casino crimes lawyers go over some common examples of aggravating factors in New Jersey.

Penalties for DP Offenses (Misdemeanors) and Indictable Crimes (Felonies) in New Jersey

Most states divide offenses into two categories: lesser offenses called misdemeanors, and very serious crimes called felonies.  New Jersey functions similarly, with a major difference: misdemeanors are known as “disorderly persons offenses” or “DP offenses” (such as disorderly conduct and simple assault), while felonies are called “indictable crimes,” “indictable offenses,” or simply “crimes” (such as sexual assault and drug distribution).  Low-level DP offenses are known as “petty” DP offenses.  Some offenses, such as resisting arrest in Atlantic City, can be DP offenses or indictable crimes depending on the details of the incident.

Like most other states, New Jersey divides indictable crimes (felonies) into several different categories: fourth degree crimes, third degree crimes, second degree crimes, and first degree crimes.  The lower the number, the greater the potential penalties if the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty.

Depending on what sort of offense or indictable crime the defendant has been charged with, he or she could face the following sentence ranges:

  • Misdemeanors 
    • Petty DP Offense – Up to 30 days in jail
    • DP Offense – Up to 6 months in jail
  • Felonies  
    • Fourth Degree Crime – Up to 18 months in prison
    • Third Degree Crime – 3 to 5 years in prison
    • Second Degree Crime – 5 to 10 years in prison
    • First Degree Crime – 10 to 20 years in prison

These sentencing ranges encompass most crimes listed under New Jersey’s criminal statutes.  However, some crimes are so serious that special sentencing enhancements apply.  For example, despite being a crime of the first degree, which normally carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, the maximum sentence for murder under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-3 can range anywhere from 30 years to life in prison, without the possibility of parole until at least 30 years of the sentence have been served.

disorderly conduct attorney new jersey

Examples of Aggravating Factors that Increase Prison Time

When a defendant is convicted in an Atlantic County municipal court (which hears disorderly persons cases), he or she will be sentenced right away.  When convicted in superior court (which hears indictable criminal cases), the defendant will be scheduled for a sentencing hearing.  Between being convicted and being sentenced, the defendant will be interviewed by officials from Probation Supervision Services, who will then compile a report to help the judge determine an appropriate sentence which takes into account variables like the defendant’s employment history and family background.

However, the defendant’s personal circumstances aren’t the only variables that affect sentencing.  Sentencing is also impacted by aggravating factors, or factors that can make a sentence longer.  There are 13 different aggravating factors listed under N.J.S.A. § 2C:44-1(a):

  1. The risk of the defendant committing another crime.
  2. The defendant’s criminal history, if any.
  3. The extent to which the victim was harmed.  A sentence can be increased if the defendant knew, or had reason to know, the defendant was “particularly vulnerable or incapable of resistance due to advanced age, ill-health, or extreme youth,” or was otherwise incapable of defending themselves.
  4. The “nature and circumstances of the offense.”  For instance, a sentence can be enhanced if the defendant acted “in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner” during the commission of the crime.
  5. The extent to which the court finds a “need for deterring the defendant and others from violating the law.”
  6. Being in a gang or otherwise being involved in organized crime.
  7. Violating public trust.
  8. Using a stolen vehicle to commit the crime.
  9. Committing the crime in exchange for payment.
  10. Committing a crime involving fraud against the government.
  11. Committing the crime against a sports official, police officer, or public servant.
  12. Committing the crime against a person who, at the time of the offense, was:
    • 60 or older
    • Disabled
  13. Whether criminal fines, restitution (court-ordered compensation for victims), or other fees and costs “would be perceived as a ‘cost of doing business.’”

Contact Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for a Free Consultation

If you or one of your family members was arrested in Atlantic City, call the aggressive Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free and confidential legal consultation.  Our knowledgeable and accomplished team of criminal attorneys combines more than 45 years of experience representing defendants charged with all types of indictable crimes and disorderly persons offenses in Atlantic County and Cape May County, including but not limited to DWI, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, homicide, theft, possession of child pornography, and trespassing in Atlantic City.

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