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Crime and Punishment: How New Jersey Defines the Seriousness of Crimes and their Penalties

Until 1979, New Jersey used the old system of case-based common law that the United States inherited from England.  Crimes were defined through case law over centuries, and became part of the law.  In 1979, New Jersey abolished the common law crimes and went about systematically defining what will constitute a crime in New Jersey, how crimes will be classified, and how they will be punished.

New Jersey considers two types of violations of law:

  • Crimes
  • Disorderly Person Offenses

The state’s statutory system considers an offense a crime if the state authorizes imprisonment for more than six months for the violation.  In order to create predictability in sentencing, crimes are further divided into four categories by their severity, and each category has guidelines for sentencing.  From least to most serious, the categories are as follows:

  1. Fourth Degree
    Fourth degree crimes are the most lenient, and carry a maximum incarceration of 18 months and a maximum fine of $10,000.  Typical fourth degree crimes are assault, shoplifting and small drug offenses.

  3. Third Degree

    A crime of the third degree carries a prison term of three to five years and a maximum fine of $15,000.  Certain theft and property damage crimes, as well as many drug possession crimes, are examples of third degree crimes.


  4. Second Degree

    If you are convicted of a crime in the second degree, you face a fine of up to $150,000 and imprisonment for a term of between five and ten years.  Manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery, small-scale drug distribution and some types of sexual assault are considered second-degree crimes.


  5. First Degree

    A first-degree crime is the most serious, including first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery.  It can carry a prison term of between 10 and 20 years, and a fine of up to $200,000.

New Jersey law gives a judge leeway to determine:

  • Whether the sentence can be suspended
  • Whether to require the defendant to pay restitution
  • When parole eligibility will begin
  • A host of other issues

The court must detail in writing its reasons for the imposition of the sentence.

Whatever criminal charges you face, it is worthwhile to get legal assistance to protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome. All of the attorneys at our offices are here for you.

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Joseph J. Hoffman, Jr.
Senior Partner

For more than 40 years, Mr. Hoffman has protected the interest of his clients through diligence and hard work on legal matters, both large and small. An honors graduate of Rutgers University Law School and a native of Gloucester County, Mr. Hoffman has won numerous accolades for excellence in the practice of law.

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Kenneth A. DiMuzio, Sr.
Senior Partner

An attorney with over 45 years of professional experience, Mr. DiMuzio concentrates his practice on personal injury and workers’ compensation matters. A graduate of Georgetown University Law School and a native of Gloucester County, Mr. DiMuzio has been honored time and again for his professionalism and ethics in the practice of law.

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Ernest L. Alvino, Jr.

About Ernest L. Alvino, Jr. concentrates his practice in the area of workplace injuries; construction accidents; product injuries; trucking accidents; auto injuries; medical negligence and crime victim advocacy. Ernie is a lifelong Gloucester County resident, living in Mullica Hill with his wife and children. Ernie worked his way through school as a Teamster and construction…

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Jeremiah J. Atkins

About Mr. Atkins joined the firm of Hoffman DiMuzio in February 2010. Mr. Atkins represents individuals and corporate clients in commercial and employment litigation. Mr. Atkins’ practice covers a wide variety of employment-related matters before New Jersey State and Federal courts, with a focus on discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, family leave and whistleblowing claims. Mr.…

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Peter J. Bonfiglio, III

About Mr. Bonfiglio concentrates his practice in the area of municipal court with an emphasis on defense of individuals charged with driving while intoxicated and/or refusal to submit to a breath test. Pete resides in Gloucester Township, Camden County with his wife and two of his three children.  In addition to his law practice, he…

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