Burglary is a serious crime across the country. In New Jersey, there are about 27,960 burglaries in a year. This means a burglary rate of 3.12 burglaries per 1,000 residents. While this is lower than the national average of 4.91 burglaries per 1,000 people, it still means that there are thousands of people each year facing burglary convictions and sentencing.
Burglary is either a second or third degree crime in New Jersey, and has standard statutory requirements for what the penalties are. However, New Jersey’s sentencing guidelines give room for your potential sentence to change. If you have been charged with burglary in Atlantic County or anywhere else in South Jersey, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 today. Our Atlantic County criminal defense attorneys may be able to represent you on your charges and fight at sentencing to reduce your potential sentence.
Penalties for Burglary in Atlantic County
New Jersey’s crimes code has two types of offenses:
- Disorderly persons offenses, which are punished with a maximum of 6 months in jail; and
- “Indictable offenses,” (usually called “crimes”) with over one year of potential prison time.
These are New Jersey’s equivalent of “misdemeanors” and “felonies,” as they are called in other states and in the federal system. In NJ, disorderly persons offenses are less severe crimes, and all “crimes” are the equivalent of serious felonies in other states.
Burglary is, first of all, the crime of entering or remaining in a place without permission (e.g. trespassing) with the intent to commit another offense in that place. This is basically trespassing with some additional criminal element. There are two potential crime grades for burglary:
- Burglary is a second degree crime if you do any of the following while committing the crime:
- Attempt or threaten to harm another person, or
- Are armed with a deadly weapon or explosives (whether they are real weapons or fake).
- Otherwise, all burglary offenses are a third degree crime.
These added elements that turn burglary into a second degree crime can occur during the actual commission of the crime, in the time leading up to the offense, or in the time you are fleeing from the crime scene. Like the elements of the crime itself, the government must prove these additional factors beyond a reasonable doubt for you to face the upgraded penalties.
A second degree crime in New Jersey carries a potential of 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. A third degree crime carries a potential of 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000. Our Atlantic City 2nd-degree burglary defense lawyers can help you avoid these penalties.
Pleading Down Burglary Offenses in Atlantic County, NJ
In many cases, “plea deals” or “plea agreements” may be available to reduce your penalties. In these cases, prosecutors may offer you a deal where you will plead to a lower, lesser crime, and they will drop the more severe charges.
In many burglary cases, police and prosecutors may be willing to replace the burglary charges with trespassing or theft charges in exchange for a guilty plea. Never accept a plea agreement or offer to plead guilty to a crime without first consulting an Atlantic City burglary defense attorney. However, an agreement like this may ultimately help you avoid heavy prison sentences.
Many trespassing crimes are disorderly persons offenses with a maximum of 6 months in jail or a fourth degree crime with a maximum of 18 months in prison. Pleading to one of these crimes may ultimately save you incarceration and expensive fines. Alternatively, prosecutors may agree to allow you to plead to a third degree version of burglary, rather than charging you with the second degree version. Again, a plea could reduce your sentence and fines.
Plea agreements are good in many cases, but are not always offered and are not always appropriate in your case.
Atlantic County Sentencing Guidelines
Crimes typically carry a particular range for punishment, but within these statutory minimums and maximums, the judge has wide authority to modify the punishment. Since second degree crimes have 5-10 years in prison, it is up to a judge whether you will face only 5 years or the maximum 10 years. The same is true for a third degree burglary crime, where the difference between 3 years and 5 years in prison is in the judge’s hands.
The manual New Jersey prosecutors use for sentencing states the following “purposes” of punishment. In deciding your specific penalties, judges should consider these purposes and the justice behind a particular sentence:
- Preventing crime,
- Promoting rehabilitation,
- Keeping the public safe,
- Protecting against unfair punishment,
- Giving offenders fair warning of the penalties,
- Individualized punishment for each offender,
- Using science and research in sentencing, and
- Promoting restitution (monetary reimbursement) for victims.
When appropriate, judges can also downgrade an offense’s penalties if it serves these factors, or the case has certain “mitigating factors.” For third degree crimes, there is also no automatic presumption that you should physically go to prison.
These kinds of rules give New Jersey criminal defense attorneys options, and room to argue for reduced penalties in your case.
Atlantic County Burglary Sentencing Lawyer
If you or a loved one was charged with or convicted of burglary in Atlantic County, including Atlantic City, Brigantine, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Hammonton, Pleasantville, Somers Point, Ventnor City, or anywhere in South Jersey, talk to an attorney today. The Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych offer free consultations on new cases. Call (609) 616-4956 today for your free consultation.