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Indictable offense vs. Felony: What's the difference?

Readers will be aware that for quite some time we have had a category on this blog for Felony DUI. Now it is gone. As we have tried to point out when we have written for that category, it is something of a misnomer and we have changed our headings to reflect that.

Unlike many states, New Jersey does not have a specific Felony DUI law on the books. That does not mean that the state doesn't prosecute cases that might be felonies. New Jersey simply uses different terminology. You can be sure that if a serious crime in which police suspect driving under the influence occurs, such as a car accident that results in injury, the criminal code provides a way to seek stiffer penalties.

You may ask how things are different in New Jersey. Experienced criminal defense attorneys understand that it hinges on whether a case goes to a grand jury.

In most states, charges break down according to their severity. Minor crimes are misdemeanors. Serious offenses are felonies. Complaints in the New Jersey system are graded differently. Those deemed minor are tagged petty disorderly persons offenses or disorderly persons violations and are directed to municipal courts. Penalties may include jail time up to a maximum of 6 months.

If the case is more serious, county prosecutors can take the matter to a grand jury. These cases would be considered felonies in other states. In New Jersey, they're called indictable offenses. But as the procedure suggests, a grand jury selected from the public has to make the call on whether to indict. Prosecutors present the grand jury with evidence. If a majority of the 23 jurors feels evidence is sufficient, it indicts and the case goes to Criminal Superior Court. If not, the charges are dismissed.

Regardless of the way a charge is graded, each one is serious. To protect your rights as fully as possible, seek the help of an experienced attorney.

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