What is an indictable offense?
This is a frequently asked question. The simple answer is that it is a more serious offense. In New Jersey, those accused of an indictable offense have the right to present their case to a grand jury. When these matters are heard in the Superior Court and if trial results, a jury is chosen.
A grand jury will listen to the facts that the State believes will prove your guilt and determine whether or not the state can prove its case. This is not a trial. In most cases, the accused will not be allowed to participate in the grand jury proceedings, neither will defense attorneys, although a request can be made. Basically, the state can present its best case, uncontested by the defense. If the panel decides that the state “has a case”, an indictment will be handed down. If the grand jury does not think that the state has a case, then the matter will be “no billed”, and the charges will be either dismissed or downgraded to a less serious offense.
In many cases, an indictable offense won’t get to the grand jury. The criminal justice system promotes plea bargaining. This means that there will be an opportunity to resolve the matter prior to indictment. This is where we come in.
In almost all cases, the best plea offer is given prior to indictment. If the defendant turns down that pre-indictment plea offer, and the case is indicted, then the next offer will typically be less appealing. If a defendant pleads guilty prior to indictment by way of plea bargain, then this is called pleading to the accusation. If the defendant rejects the pre-indictment plea offer and the post indictment plea offer, then the case will go to trial.
Disorderly persons offenses are similar to misdemeanors and encompass a wide array of offenses such as shoplifting, simple assault, disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, etc. There is no right to a grand jury with disorderly persons offenses nor are there jury trials with disorderly persons offenses. If convicted, it will appear on your criminal record and you could face jail time, heavy fines, and loss of license.
Disorderly persons offenses are heard in municipal court. With these type of charges, as with indictable offenses, there will typically be multiple court appearances. Contact us for a free consultation and we will be there for you every step of the way.