What Is a Second Degree Felony in New Jersey?
New Jersey does not use the term “felony” to describe crimes punishable by a year or more in prison. Instead, the state has a category of crimes called “indictable” that are the equivalent of felonies elsewhere in the country. These crimes come in four separate degrees – with first being the most serious and fourth degree being the least serious. Examples of second degree indictable crimes in New Jersey include:
- Aggravated arson
- Endangering the welfare of a child
- Computer pornography
- Certain white collar crimes
- Kidnapping, if the victim is released before apprehension
- Certain drug crimes, generally the most serious charges
Maximum and Minimum Sentences
The standard sentencing range for second degree crimes in New Jersey is between 5 and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, although the fine is not mandatory. Second degree crimes can be punished by significant prison terms, and state law allows judges the discretion to hand out higher sentences when a number of other specific factors are present.
The judge begins with the normal sentencing range for a second degree crime, which does not take into account either aggravating or mitigating circumstance. State law lists a number aggravating circumstances, including cruelty of unique circumstances of the crime, vulnerability of the victim, presence of organized criminal activity and the risk of recidivism, based on a defendant’s prior criminal history. Some of the mitigating factors listed include: a history of physical, sexual or psychological abuse, extreme provocation and a youthful defendant coerced by another. Some crimes qualify as exceptions to the four categories, such as kidnapping in the first degree, which is punishable by a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison. Another example is carjacking, which has an extended range of 10 to 30 years in prison.
Loss of Rights and Benefits
As soon as you are convicted of a second degree crime you will lose the following rights in New Jersey:
- Hold state office – ban is permanent if conviction involved the state office
- Own or possess a firearm – with conviction of crimes of violence; right to own or possess handguns lost if convicted of an indictable offense such as a second degree or any domestic violence offense
- Enlist in the armed service
- Some federal and state licenses
The right to vote in New Jersey is automatically restored once the criminal sentence is completed, including any fine, parole or probation. Other rights are not automatically restored.
Employment and Housing with a Felony Record
Without an expungement or a pardon from the governor, New Jersey residents with convictions for second degree crimes will find it extremely difficult to get jobs or housing in the state. Applicants are required to answer truthfully regarding any time spent in prison and it is legal for potential employers or landlords to run background checks and to take any criminal record into account when making hiring or employment decisions.
Clearing Your Record
Expungement is available to some people with criminal records in New Jersey. The law allows people convicted of a single, indictable offense to seek expungement. However, if two or more convictions of lesser crimes are also a part of the criminal record, expungement is not possible. Criminal records from other states are considered when making expungement decisions. In most cases, a felon cannot apply for expungement until 10 years have passed from the completion of the sentence, including the full payment of fines and any parole or probation. In some cases, a time frame of 5 years may be accepted if the felon has no subsequent arrests and expungement is in the “public interest.” Certain crimes, including a number of second degree crimes, cannot be expunged. These crimes include arson, kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault.
It is also possible for someone convicted of a second degree crime in New Jersey to receive a pardon from the governor. There is no waiting period and no specific qualifications. Pardons are rarely granted, however, and compelling circumstances must be shown.
See New Jersey’s Code of Criminal Justice. The Code also includes detailed information on criminal sentencing in the state.
The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should visit an attorney.