Many people believe a simple criminal offense may not lead to severe penalties. However, being charged with any criminal offense – whether small or big – can lead to severe consequences. In New Jersey, criminal offenses are not charged as misdemeanors and felonies. Instead, lesser offenses are charged as disorderly persons offenses. More serious offenses are charged as indictable crimes. Aggravating factors like your criminal history may be used when determining penalties. This leaves first-time offenders wondering what will happen to them if they are convicted of a disorderly persons offense.
While the penalties for disorderly persons offenses are comparatively lenient, a first-time offender may still serve time in jail if convicted. Disorderly persons offenses may be punished by up to 6 months in jail. Very minor offenses called petty disorderly persons offenses are punishable by only 30 days in jail. However, any time behind bars is not good and a first-time defendant should hire an experienced attorney to represent them.
Our Atlantic City criminal defense attorney John J. Zarych can help you fight your charges and hopefully avoid jail time for a disorderly persons offense. You can schedule a free and confidential legal consultation regarding your charges by calling our team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
Can You Face Jail Time for a First-Time Misdemeanor in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, criminal charges for lesser offenses are not called misdemeanors as in other jurisdictions. Instead, New Jersey calls them “disorderly persons offenses.” Like misdemeanors, disorderly persons offenses are classified as the lowest type of crime. There is also a subset of disorderly person offenses known as “petty disorderly persons offenses” that are lower than misdemeanors. However, the fact that you have been charged with these criminal offenses does not mean your penalties should be taken lightly. Both types of offenses come with the potential for jail time, even for first-time offenders.
If you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, you need to hire Cape May criminal defense attorney right away. If you are convicted for any of these offenses, you can face jail time and steep fines. Common examples of disorderly persons offenses or misdemeanors in New Jersey include harassment, soliciting a prostitute, trespassing, and theft – among other offenses.
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:1-4(b), misdemeanors in New Jersey – or disorderly persons offenses – are not considered crimes. However, as we mentioned, charges can still lead to incarceration. It is always in your best interest to have competent, skilled legal representation by your side at all times if you were charged with a misdemeanor in New Jersey. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys are here to help.
How Your Criminal Record May Affect Sentencing for Misdemeanors in New Jersey
Disorderly persons offenses, or misdemeanors in other jurisdictions, are punishable with jail time. While the total incarceration time is not long, it should not be disregarded. A disorderly persons offense can be punished by up to 6 months in jail. A defendant found guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense could spend up to 30 days in jail. However, the extent of any time spent behind bars may be influenced by the factors surrounding your case.
Oftentimes, higher sentences are imposed when there are aggravating factors. Aggravating factors include details about your case that make you look bad. One kind of aggravating factor that can be considered is your criminal history. A defendant with a lengthy criminal history will not receive much sympathy from the court and may face the maximum penalty.
However, a first-time offender has a clean record. A clean criminal history may be looked at as a mitigating factor, or something that makes you look good. Mitigating factors can win you favor with the court and the judge may impose a lesser sentence. For disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses, you could have jail time reduced. It may even be possible to eliminate the possibility of jail time altogether. You should speak to our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys to discuss any aggravating or mitigating factors surrounding your disorderly persons offense.
Alternative Sentencing Options for First-Time Offenders in New Jersey
Jail time is not the only sentencing option for disorderly persons offenses. Judges have a number of sentencing options to choose from when deciding your fate after a conviction or guilty plea. For example, penalties can include probation, community service, fines, or even a driver’s license suspension in some cases. A judge could impose anyone number of these sentencing options instead of or in addition to jail time.
It may be possible, especially for a first-time offender, to persuade a judge to take jail time off the table. We can argue that you are clearly not a dangerous person as you would have no record of crime or violence as a first-time offender. If we can convince the judge that your punishment would be better served outside of jail, you may be able to avoid incarceration. However, you may have to deal with a different penalty, such as probation instead.
If you are sentenced to probation, you will have to check in with a probation officer regularly. You will also have to abide by court-imposed restrictions on your behavior. These restrictions are often based on your needs as a defendant and the nature of your offense. Restrictions can include curfews, electronic monitoring, education courses, job training, or substance abuse treatment. Failure to follow these restrictions may result in your arrest. Get in touch with our Ocean City criminal defense attorneys to discuss possible sentencing alternatives for your case.
How Can an Attorney Help Me Avoid Jail for a Frist-Time Misdemeanor Charge in New Jersey?
Facing New Jersey’s criminal justice system on your own is something you should avoid. If you were charged with a criminal offense, it is essential to hire an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney. The first thing that happens after being arrested is your booking process. At this point, you will be photographed and fingerprinted. Once this process ends, you will go to your arraignment. Keep in mind that you may be placed in jail until your arraignment is due – which can take up to 48 hours after your booking.
At your hearing, you will be in front of a judge who will look at your file and decide whether you should get bail or not. New Jersey does not allow you to post bail in cash. In your case, the judge can decide to release you – pending any additional hearings – without bail conditions, which may include participating in programs such as drug counseling, or they can order you to remain in jail while your case is pending. Your attorney can also help you participate in a pretrial intervention program. Through this diversionary program, you can complete certain penalties in exchange for the dismissal of your charges.
You will also go through the arraignment process, which will take place in the municipal court. This is the moment when you choose whether to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges against you. At this point, you can also negotiate with the prosecution and enter a plea deal. It is essential to hire an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney who can help you make a deal that is most favorable to you.
Your Sea Isle City criminal defense lawyer can help you strategize to build a robust defense and fight off your charges. Your attorney can also enter into negotiations with the prosecution to achieve the best possible result in your case. More importantly, your criminal defense lawyer can ensure your constitutional rights are upheld at all times.
Diversion Programs for First-Time Offenders in New Jersey
Some defendants are eligible to enter diversion programs instead of serving a jail sentence. There are multiple diversion programs that each have their own unique eligibility criteria. Some programs require that a defendant be a first-time offender in order to enter the program. However, certain offenses will not qualify. You should speak with our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers about the possibility of entering a diversion program.
If you are indeed eligible, a diversion program can not only help you avoid jail time, but sometimes they can help you avoid a criminal record. Diversion programs tend to focus on the need of the defendant and rehabilitation rather than punishment. Programs like drug court are designed for non-violent offenders who have serious drug dependency problems. The program is meant to help them overcome their drug use and re-enter society.
Other programs may have other goals and outcomes. For some programs, successful completion may mean the judge will dismiss the charges against you. You could leave the program with a clean slate. Call our South Jersey criminal defense lawyers to discuss diversion programs and whether you are eligible.
Will a Misdemeanor Conviction Result in a Criminal Record in New Jersey?
New Jersey divides crimes into two main categories: disorderly persons offenses and indictable crimes. As we mentioned, disorderly persons offenses are similar to misdemeanors in other jurisdictions. Indictable crimes, on the other hand, equate to felonies, which carry the most severe consequences. Compared to indictable crimes, disorderly persons offenses are not crimes warranting severe criminal punishments. However, this doesn’t mean you are safe from the consequences of a criminal conviction.
If you were charged and convicted for a misdemeanor in New Jersey, your criminal conviction would show up in your record. Many people feel tempted to believe that being charged with a misdemeanor – or disorderly persons offense – is “not that bad.” However, nothing can be further from the truth. If you are facing misdemeanor charges, it is critical to fight them aggressively. Your criminal record may cause multiple challenges in the future, even after getting out of jail.
For example, having a criminal record can make it nearly impossible for an ex-convicted felon to find a new job. Most employers run background checks to determine whether you are eligible for work. The same happens with landlords who will look at your criminal history to decide whether you are eligible to rent a home. Your situation can be more challenging if you are young and looking to get a degree from college. For these and many other reasons, it is essential to dispute the allegations against you aggressively. It is best to hire an experienced Avalon criminal defense attorney who can help you through this challenging time.
Expunging a Conviction for a Disorderly Persons Offense in New Jersey
Some defendants may be able to expunge their disorderly persons offense from their record. An expungement effectively seals your criminal record for a particular offense. Courts and government agencies will treat the offense as if it never happened. You will also not be required to report the offense to people like potential employers.
Whether you can expunge your disorderly persons offense will depend on the nature of the offense. Generally, serious and violent offenses cannot be expunged. However, many non-violent disorderly persons offenses can be expunged. Expungement may be more likely for a defendant with no prior criminal record. Judges are less inclined to expunge the records of defendants who are repeat offenders with lengthy criminal histories.
Before expunging your record, you must complete your sentence. In some cases, you must also wait a certain amount of time until you become eligible for expungement. Call our Wildwood criminal defense lawyers to discuss how and when you can expunge your disorderly persons offense.
Atlantic City Criminal Defense Attorneys Handling First-Time Misdemeanor Cases in New Jersey
No matter the classification of your criminal offense, you should always take your charges seriously. Even a minor charge such as a disorderly persons offense can lead to devastating consequences. Our Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys from the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can help you fight against your criminal charges. To learn more about our legal services in a free, confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (609) 445-3579.