Nobody ever wants to be charged with a crime. Many are surprised when they can be charged with a crime for something as seemingly harmless as yelling loudly or having physical contact with someone. The crime of disorderly conduct is one that is prevalent in places where lots of people are present and alcohol is readily available, such as bars or sporting events. As unintended and embarrassing as a disorderly conduct charge may be, it is a criminal offense that carries the potential of jail time. If you are facing a disorderly conduct charge, then it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct is defined under New Jersey law at the New Jersey Statutes 2C:33-2 and is further divided into two categories that can result in disorderly conduct charges. An individual is guilty of disorderly conduct if they act with the purpose of causing a public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. Disorderly conduct can be charged under either of the following circumstances:
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:33-2(a) – Improper behavior: This part of the statute covers acts such as fighting, threatening someone, or any other acts that can be considered violent or tumultuous. It also covers acts that create a hazardous and physically dangerous condition that serve or legitimate purpose of the actor.
- New Jersey Statutes 2C:33-2(b) – Offensive language: This part of the statute covers offensive language in public that is meant to offend the hearer or is said recklessly and can offend the hearer. The term “public” in this case is anywhere that a substantial group of people can access.
It is important to note that disorderly conduct and a disorderly person are not the same. Disorderly conduct is a specific criminal charge. Being deemed a disorderly person comes from being convicted of a disorderly persons offense, the New Jersey equivalent to a criminal misdemeanor.
What Are Some Examples of Disorderly Conduct in New Jersey?
There are a variety of actions that can result in disorderly conduct charges in New Jersey. Many types of aggressive behavior that is meant to anger or annoy someone can result in a disorderly conduct charge, including when someone:
- Makes loud noise
- Screams in someone's face
- Yells threats at someone
- Pushes or shoves someone
- Throws or breaks objects
This is a small list of circumstances that can result in a disorderly conduct charge. When the public is disturbed or alarmed by some type of loud and wild activity, then the person who caused the disturbance can face a charge of disorderly conduct. Make sure you speak to an attorney directly about your disorderly conduct case if you are facing a charge.
What are the Potential Punishments for a Disorderly Conduct Conviction in New Jersey?
Disorderly conduct convictions cannot result in state prison time in New Jersey. Disorderly conduct charges fall into the petty disorderly persons offense category under New Jersey law. This means that the maximum possible penalty for a disorderly conduct conviction in New Jersey is 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. A court can also require someone convicted of disorderly conduct to serve probation, perform community service, and pay restitution if anything was damaged. If an offender violates any probationary terms set by the judge, then that offender faces the possibility of being sent to jail up to the maximum penalty for the original offense; in this case 30 days.
Collateral Consequences of a Disorderly Conduct Conviction
While a conviction for disorderly conduct carries a presumption against being sent to jail, the collateral consequences of a conviction can be much greater. Having a criminal conviction on your record, such as disorderly conduct, can result in the inability to qualify for many types of employment and housing options. It can even result in the suspension or loss of a professional license. If the circumstances of the disorderly conduct charge involve assaultive or threatening behavior, that can be a turn-off to employers and can be a large hurdle towards gaining people's trust. Certain disorderly conduct convictions can even prevent you from being able to serve your country and enlist in a branch of the United States Military.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Disorderly Conduct Charge?
A statute of limitations is a time limit set by law regarding the length of time someone has to file a case against someone else. This can apply to criminal as well as civil cases. Each state has several statutes of limitations for all types of cases, usually allowing at least a year for a case to be filed in court.
The statute of limitations for disorderly conduct in New Jersey is typically one year. This means that anyone accused of a petty disorderly persons offense such as disorderly conduct must have charged brought against them within a year of the alleged incident, or else it cannot be brought at all. This is a general rule that applies to petty disorderly persons offenses and disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey, and you should consult the New Jersey Revised Statutes for more specific details relating to specific offenses.
What Kind of Sentencing Alternatives Exist for a Disorderly Persons Offense?
While judges are within their power to send everyone convicted of disorderly conduct to jail for up to 30 days, it is not in the public interest that they do so, nor is it the standard punishment. Judges have several other options at their disposal to appropriately punish and rehabilitate people convicted of disorderly conduct without sending them to jail. The most common sentencing alternatives include:
- Pre-Trial Intervention: A disorderly conduct charge may qualify for pre-trial intervention. Pre-trial intervention is an alternative sentencing program that is authorized by the prosecutor. If you are approved for pre-trial intervention, then your disorderly conduct charges will be dismissed entirely at the end of your case. Pre-trial intervention is typically only given to nonviolent first offenders. Monitoring can last up to three years, and your request for pre-trial intervention must be made in writing within 28 days after you are charged. Superior Court judges hear any appeals of pre-trial intervention denials.
- Veterans Diversion: A disorderly conduct charge may qualify for a veterans diversion if the defendant is a military veteran. Veterans diversion programs offer mental health and substance abuse treatment programs that are beneficial to many that participate. If an individual finishes a veterans diversion without any violations, then the original case is dismissed. This dismissal works similarly to one that an individual can get through a pre-trial intervention.
- Conditional Dismissal Program: Under this program, an individual pleads guilty to an eligible offense and is placed on probation for a specified period. If the individual completes all of the conditions required by the court, then the case can be dismissed at the end of the monitoring period. Any violations of the terms of probation can result in the judge ordering a jail sentence.
There may be other sentencing alternatives that can keep your criminal record clean and you out of jail. If you have questions about sentencing alternatives, then make sure to speak to an experienced attorney.
Expunging a Disorderly Conduct Conviction in New Jersey
If you have a disorderly conduct conviction on your record, then you may be able to have the offense removed through the expungement process. Expungement allows an individual to have an offense removed from a public criminal record once the statutory period has passed. In New Jersey, you must wait five years before you can apply for expungement for a disorderly conduct charge. All other petty disorderly persons offenses face the same five-year waiting period requirement before expungement is permitted.
How an Attorney Can Help with a Disorderly Conduct Charge
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help evaluate your case to assess its strengths and weaknesses. If you have potential legal defenses to your charge, then your attorney can examine how to best use those defenses to your benefit. It is important to the strengths and weaknesses of your case so you can make assured and smart decisions on how to go forward. If you have legal questions, then the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm are standing by to help!
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you are facing a disorderly conduct charge in New Jersey, then make sure to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Disorderly conduct charges should be treated seriously as they are criminal in nature. Understanding the facts and circumstances in your disorderly conduct charge is critical to preparing the proper defense. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have the experience and knowledge that you need to help you find success. To learn why attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firmare the right choice to help you fight your case, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.