…criminal charges can be downgraded by a prosecutor, which also reduces the severity of the potential sentencing consequences. In NJ, criminal charges are graded as either ‘crimes’ or ‘offenses’. A crime is a charge that exposes you to incarceration in State prison (for a term of more than 364 days), while an offense is a charge that exposes you to incarceration in the local County jail (for a period of up to 6-months). A crime can be downgraded to an offense by the prosecutor at several different times during the Court proceedings. It is not uncommon for an indictable crime that does not involve violence or weapons to be eligible for downgrading during the first Court proceedings in the Central Judicial Processing (CJP) Court, depending on the alleged facts and the prior record of the defendant. There are benefits to having the charges reduced at an early stage, (such as the reduced exposure of incarceration) and a quicker trial date with most cases handled in a ‘Remand Court’ in front of the Chief Municipal Court Judge for the County. There are also changes to the types of diversionary programs available in the Municipal Court, that unlike those same programs in Superior Court, require a defendant to enter a guilty plea to get the diversion. In some cases, this downgrading, or reduction in the seriousness of the charge, takes a diversion off the table as an alternative to taking the case to trial, since an innocent person cannot plead guilty to something they did not do.
SPECIALIZING IN CRIMINAL DEFENSE THROUGHOUT NEW JERSEY
Howard W. Bailey, Esq.
550 Broad Street, Suite 601
Newark, NJ 07102