Public intoxication is not at the individual level a crime constituting a serious threat to American society. It is not a crime of violence like murder or mayhem, nor is it a crime of dishonesty like fraud or theft. Yet public intoxication is a crime that no one would really want in their history. A record of public intoxication can unduly embarrass a person, causing them to avoid pursuing worthwhile roles and opportunities. It can also affect reputation, causing doors to close to those opportunities.
Those factors make a public intoxication-related conviction a perfect candidate for expungement. Legislatures design expungement laws, especially for instances when an old conviction raises no red flags warning of danger or dishonesty, and yet unfairly marks the person with a scarlet letter. You never know when you might need or want a clean record. Even if your public intoxication-related conviction is not currently affecting you, keep your legal house in order. Contact New Jersey expungement attorney Joseph Lento now by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online to expunge your public intoxication-related record.
Expungement to the Rescue
Law seldom authorizes concealing facts. Usually, when an employer, school, bank, landlord, or another person in a position of power and authority asks a question, they have the right to full and complete disclosure. New Jersey's legislature held otherwise when adopting New Jersey's expungement statute. Expungement means that you need not disclose the expunged public intoxication conviction even when another poses a question seeming to require that disclosure. Law judges the harmless nondisclosure better than the personal harm of disclosure.
Expungement further works because it conceals government records of arrest, charge, and conviction, from background checks private employers, landlords, schools, and lenders commonly make. Because arrest and conviction records can extend well beyond the courts, N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-1 authorizes not just courts but other law-enforcement agencies to seal records of a person's arrest, detention, trial, and conviction within the state's criminal justice system.
New Jersey Public Intoxication Laws
New Jersey does not outright criminalize public intoxication. Instead, like many other states, it generally treats intoxication as a health and safety concern, other than with respect to DUI laws. Local governments have traditionally enacted and enforced their own public intoxication ordinances. But N.J. Stat. § 26:2B-26 expressly prohibits local governments from enacting those laws: “No county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the State shall adopt any law, ordinance, bylaw, resolution or regulation ... rendering public intoxication or being found in any place in an intoxicated condition an offense, a violation or the subject of criminal or civil penalties or sanctions of any kind….”
Public intoxication can still lead to criminal charges and conviction. New Jersey statute N.J. Stat. § 2C:33-2 makes disorderly conduct, whether or not related to alcohol abuse, an offense. Painting a suitably colorful picture of public drunkenness, the statute makes it a petty offense “to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk” of those harms, by fighting, threatening, or engaging in violent or tumultuous behavior, creating hazardous conditions, or “offending the sensibilities of a hearer” by “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language….” State, county, or local police finding someone abusively and offensively drunk in public could easily arrest under this statute.
N.J. Stat. § 2C:33-2 also defines what it means by “public,” as “affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access … [including] highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, or any neighborhood.” New Jersey may not have a traditional public intoxication crime, but it effectively does in its disorderly conduct statute.
Expunging Public Intoxication-Related Convictions
New Jersey's expungement statute for disorderly persons offenses, N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-3, permits expungement of up to five disorderly conduct offenses, with certain conditions. The statute's conditions for expunging disorderly conduct typically include no other criminal convictions, for instance, such as assault, unless those other convictions were merely other disorderly conduct convictions. Indeed, the statute separately permits the expungement applicant to count as a single conviction several disorderly conduct convictions under one judgment or closely related events.
The statute N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-3 also imposes a five-year wait from the most recent conviction, release from incarceration, payment of all related fines, and completion of probation or parole. The court may suspend the five-year wait for financial inability to pay the fine. N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-4 extends these expungement opportunities to cover convictions under local ordinances. N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-5.4 further offers an “automated clean slate” expungement of non-qualifying convictions after ten years from release from incarceration, completion of probation and parole terms, and payment of fines.
Help from NJ Expungement Attorney Joseph D. Lento
Expungement, even of minor disorderly conduct and other public intoxication-related offenses, can be highly worthwhile. Expungement, though, can also be difficult for the layperson to understand and achieve. Because of the legislature's interest in sensitivity and frequent reform, New Jersey's expungement statutes are many, lengthy, detailed, technical, and complex. Their many conditions and exceptions alone make them difficult for ordinary readers to accurately summarize, no less reliably interpret and apply. Their latest amendments are also just taking effect and thus not yet well known and frequently applied, even by the courts themselves.
Do not undertake on your own to determine that you fail to qualify for expunging a public intoxication-related conviction. You may well qualify, even if one statute or one interpretation makes it appear that you do not qualify. The smart thing to do is to contact New Jersey expungement attorney Joseph D. Lento to review your public intoxication-related conviction for expungement. Attorney Lento and his expert law team at the Lento Law Firm have the knowledge, skill, and experience to determine whether you qualify. Let the expert team at the Lento Law Firm prepare your expungement application, ensuring its proper documentation and filing. If you've earned a clean slate, then make sure your slate is indeed clean. Contact the Lento Law Firm now by calling (888) 535-3686 at any time day or night or by going online.