Misdemeanors vs. Felonies in New York and New Jersey

 In Criminal Defense

When someone commits a crime, depending on the severity, they can either be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. A felony is the most serious type of offense, and it often carries a longer jail sentence and higher penalties than a misdemeanor. Typically, nonviolent crimes such as shoplifting and reckless driving are considered misdemeanors while crimes such as aggravated assault and murder are felonies. In the United States, it is up to the individual state’s criminal justice system to classify and define most crimes as well as their punishments. 

In New York and New Jersey, Mario Gallucci and The Gallucci Law Firm provide expert legal assistance for those charged with all types of crimes, including misdemeanors and felonies. Mario Gallucci has over three decades of experience as a criminal defense attorney, fighting the most high-profile cases in NY, NJ, and the Federal Courts. He and his team will discuss the specifics of your case and determine a personalized strategy catered to your needs. Contact us to schedule a consultation and get the justice you deserve today!

What are the Categories of Crimes in New York?

In New York, crimes are first classified by categories, which are based on the amount of possible incarceration time. These are violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. Each category is then broken down by class and degree. Although they are part of the Penal Law, violations are technically not “crimes” in New York. If convicted of a violation, you would not be convicted of a crime under the law. Examples of violations include disorderly conduct, harassment in the second degree, and trespass. 

Misdemeanors are defined as crimes punishable by 364 days or less in jail. The punishment for misdemeanors in New York depends on which class they fall into. Class A misdemeanors, such as petit larceny or carrying a gun without a permit, can involve a jail sentence of up to 364 days and fines of up to $1,000. Class B misdemeanors, like issuing a bad check, are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $500. 

Felonies in New York are the most serious of all crimes, and they are punishable by one or more years in prison. They are classified from Class A-1 felonies to Class E. The general guidelines for incarceration sentences for these crimes when there is no previous criminal history are as follows: 

Offense Sentence
A-I and A-II Violent Felony Life, 20-25 years
B Violent Felony 5-25 years
B Non-Violent Felony 1-3, max 25 years
C Violent Felony 3.5 to 15 years
C Non-Violent Felony No incarceration, probation, 1-2 to 15 years
D Violent Felony 2-7 years
D Non-Violent Felony No incarceration, probation, 1-3 to 7 years
E Violent Felony No incarceration, probation, 1.5 to 4 years
E Non-Violent Felony No incarceration, probation, 1.33 to 4 years

What Happens if You are Convicted of a Felony in NY?

Criminal defendants who are charged with felonies in New York are prosecuted aggressively, and the consequences can be quite serious. Each type of felony in NY carries its own set of stipulations to determine if the crime committed fits a particular category and its related sentencing. Class A felonies are reserved for crimes such as murder and treason. In many states, a Class A felony would involve the use of capital punishment. Since the death penalty was abolished in NY in 2007, this type of felony would now result in a life prison sentence, often without the possibility of parole. Along with fines, jail, or prison time, those convicted of a felony in New York lose several legal rights and privileges, including: 

  • The right to vote (if still incarcerated)
  • The right to use, purchase, or possess a firearm
  • The right to serve on a jury
  • Eligibility to for federally funded housing
  • Inclusion in welfare programs
  • Driving privileges (in some cases)

What are the Categories of Crimes in New Jersey?

When you are charged with a crime in New Jersey, you will discover that the charges are different than in other states. Instead of being charged with a misdemeanor, for instance, you will receive a disorderly persons offense. In New Jersey, crimes fall into three distinct categories: indictable crimes, disorderly persons offenses, and petty disorderly persons offenses. These crimes are further classified by degrees, depending on how serious the crime is. For example, if you are charged with manslaughter, this is a first-degree indictable crime and can carry a punishment of 10 to 20 years in New Jersey State Prison and a $200,000 fine. Second-degree indictable crimes, such as aggravated assault, are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine. 

Under New Jersey Law, if you are found guilty of a 1st or 2nd-degree crime, you could and will likely incur jail time as a penalty. This is known as a “presumption of imprisonment.” Crimes that carry these degrees are usually considered violent or excessive. Examples of criminal charges that fall into these categories are as follows: 

First Degree Crimes

  • Murder
  • Aggravated manslaughter
  • Armed robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Vehicular manslaughter (in some cases)
  • Distribution of narcotics (large quantities)
  • Other types of violent crimes

Second Degree Crimes

  • Certain types of sexual assault
  • Aggravated assault (without injury)
  • Unarmed robbery
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Drug possession and distribution crimes
  • Property theft (depending on the value)

On the other hand, 3rd and 4th-degree criminal charges are not as serious as 1st and 2nd-degree charges. The potential consequences are comparatively less harsh and there is a greater chance of leniency in sentencing. In New Jersey, punishment for a 3rd-degree crime can range anywhere from probation to 5 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. A 4th degree crime is considered the least serious and the maximum sentence is 18 months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. 

If a crime is not designated to any degree, it is judged as a 4th-degree crime. The only exception to this rule would be disorderly persons offenses, which are handled in the local Municipal Court. Common 3rd and 4th-degree crimes include: 

Third Degree Crimes

  • Narcotics related charges
  • Theft charges
  • Damage to property
  • Burglary
  • Most types of assault charges

Fourth Degree Crimes

  • Possession of marijuana
  • Stalking
  • Shoplifting
  • Violation of a restraining order
  • Certain assault and theft crimes

These lists are not exhaustive, as there are many other crimes that will qualify as first, second, third, and fourth-degree crimes. As previously mentioned, these are known as indictable crimes. 

Disorderly Persons and Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses in NJ

Under New Jersey Law, disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses are “non-indictable” offenses punishable by six months in jail or less. DP offenses are the most frequent charges handled in NJ Municipal Courts in the township, city, or municipality where the alleged offense took place. Both petty and disorderly persons offenses can result in jail time and a criminal record if you are convicted. Examples of DP and PDP offenses and their penalties include:

  • Disorderly persons offense: possession of marijuana less than 50 grams, resisting arrest, and simple assault; penalties include up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • Petty disorderly persons offense: disorderly conduct, harassment, and trespass; penalties include up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

What Determines the Degree of a Crime?

The degree of a crime, or the severity or classification of a crime, depends on several factors, including the jurisdiction (i.e., the location where the crime took place) and the nature and circumstances of the crime. Most crimes have specific definitions and associated language that individual states will use to base charges on and progress through a case. These definitions can help differentiate between misdemeanors and felonies, degrees and aggravating factors, and which penalties will apply. 

Aggravating factors, such as the use of violence or force or a crime involving multiple victims, increase the severity or seriousness of a crime. Consequently, this may result in harsher penalties or sentences upon conviction. Aggravation attached to charges can also increase a misdemeanor to a felony or the degree of a felony. These factors are considered by judges, and, in some cases, by juries when determining the appropriate punishment for a defendant. 

It’s important to note that the legal definitions and penalties for any type of crime may differ based on local, state, or federal laws. You should refer to specific statutes and guidelines in your relevant jurisdiction in New York or New Jersey to understand how crimes are classified and sentenced in your particular area. 

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Staten Island, NY

No matter the type of crime you’ve been accused of, it is crucial to hire an experienced attorney to help fight your case. Mario Gallucci of The Gallucci Law Firm is a criminal defense lawyer based out of Staten Island, NY. He has been recognized on The National Top 100 Trial Lawyers list for 15 consecutive years and is a member of several well-known legal organizations in the United States, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Staten Island Defenders Association. 

Have you been charged with a criminal offense in New York or New Jersey? When you choose to work with Mario Gallucci, he and his team will review your case in depth and create a customized defense plan to ensure the best possible outcome. Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor, felony, or related charge in NY or NJ, we’ll help you navigate the legal process in a timely and effective manner. Contact us to schedule a consultation and explore Mario Gallucci’s areas of expertise for more information today!

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