Skip to Content

Criminal Court has very good information on The Criminal Justice Process, it is highly recommended reading for anyone involved with the criminal court.


The Criminal Division of Superior Court manages criminal complaints from the time they are lodged to their resolution or "disposition". The accused, or "defendant" is charged with an offense as a result of a formal complaint issued by a law enforcement agent or a citizen who believes an offense has been committed against their person or property. It can also result from an "indictment" by a panel of citizens gathered to consider evidence, called a "grand jury". Arrests can occur at the scene of a crime or based on warrants or sworn statements ordering a court appearance. All arrests must be based on "probable cause", or reasonable grounds to believe that an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed the offense. Complaints state the reasons for the offense being charged against the defendant and refer to the offenses by statute citation which are listed in the "New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice" (Title 2C).

Criminal offenses are heard, or considered in Superior Court, and are more serious than quasi-criminal charges that are heard in Municipal Court. Defendants found guilty, or "convicted" of crimes face more serious consequences, with punishments ranging from probation supervision and fines to the loss of liberty through confinement for a year or more. Crimes are classified by degree. Degrees range from first to fourth degree offenses. First degree crimes carry the potential penalty of 10-20 years in prison. Second degree crimes carry the potential penalty of 5-10 years in prison. Defendants who are convicted of first and second degree crimes face a presumptive term of incarceration. It is assumed that they will be sentenced to serve time in prison. Third degree crimes may result in 3-5 years in prison while Fourth degree crimes carry a potential penalty of up to 18 months in prison. There is a presumption of non-custodial sentences for 3rd and 4th degree offenses.

Complaints heard in municipal courts are "disorderly persons" offenses or "petty disorderly persons" offenses which carry less restrictive punishments upon conviction. Disorderly person offenses carry potential jail sentences up to 6 months. Petty disorderly person offenses carry potential jail sentences up to 30 days.

Lynda Lee started handling adult and juvenile criminal cases as a pool attorney for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender. Lynda's first criminal jury trial was tried in the Monmouth County Superior Court - Criminal Division over 20 years ago.