What’s the difference between Indictable and Non-Indictable offenses?

The criminal justice system of New Jersey ensures the protection of defendant’s rights after they are accused of a crime. In the State of New Jersey, criminal offenses are not classified as either felonies or misdemeanors. Instead, under New Jersey criminal procedure, criminal offenses are classified as either the following: “indictable offenses,” “disorderly persons offenses,” and “petty disorderly persons offenses.” An indictable offense is comparable to a felony while non-indictable offenses can be compared to a misdemeanor.

Indictable v. Non-Indictable

An indictable offense is considered to be a criminal offense in which the accused may be incarcerated for a period of six or more months. The severity of the crime will result in the offense being separated into either a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th-degree indictable offense.

A non-indictable offense — which is considered either a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense — are those crimes for which the accused may be incarcerated for a period less than six months.

One difference between the two types of crimes is where and how they are handled. Indictable charges are heard in New Jersey’s Superior Courts of the county in which the crime is said to have occurred. Non-indictable charges are heard in the Municipal Courts of the City, Township or Borough in which the crime is said to have occurred.

Perhaps the greatest difference between indictable and non-indictable offenses is the criminal procedure for prosecuting such offenses. Under New Jersey law, indictable offenses afford the accused a jury trial. However, the charges must first be submitted to a grand jury. A grand jury–which is a group of community individuals randomly selected to, in secrecy, hear information regarding the charged crime–will determine whether or not the accused should be indicted. The grand jury will produce a written statement by which they elect to charge the accused or they will produce a No Bill, which rejects the charges. A prosecutor may not press charges in the Superior Court should the grand jury produce a No Bill.

Unlike with indictable offenses, a non-indictable offense is not brought before a grand jury. Moreover, an individual accused of a non-indictable offense is not afforded a jury trial.

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The State of New Jersey must follow appropriate criminal procedure if it charges an individual with a crime. If you have recently been charged with a crime, you should be aware of the appropriate criminal procedure for your situation. Speaking with a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney can help make all the difference. Robert E. DePersia, II is devoted to defending clients charged with traffic, DWI or criminal violations. Contact the Law Office of Robert E. DePersia II at (856) 795-9688 and schedule your consultation today.