Every summer and even through the offseason, large numbers of tourists flock to Brigantine looking to soak up some sun and have a good time. While most people do just that, things can quickly turn sour if your partying gets out of hand and your behavior gets you charged with disorderly conduct. While disorderly conduct might seem relatively minor compared to other criminal charges you could face, it can lead to serious penalties, including jail time, fines, and a criminal record.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Brigantine, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers have years of experience successfully defending clients charged with this crime in Brigantine and throughout the region. Whether you are a year-long resident of Brigantine or just a visitor, our team will be there with you through every step of the case, working to answer all your questions and to bring the matter to the best possible resolution. Call our firm today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.
Definition of Disorderly Conduct in Brigantine, NJ
Disorderly conduct is considered a catch-all charge, meaning it encompasses a broad variety of behaviors and actions. The common denominator is that these behaviors and actions must occur in public and disturb the public peace in some way. Additionally, they need to have been committed purposefully, meaning with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly, meaning that you should have been aware that your conduct could cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.
There are three main categories of disorderly conduct, to be described below.
Fighting and Violent Behavior
The first category of disorderly conduct is “[engaging] in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.” Rather than the actions taken during a fight, such as punching someone, this category penalizes the act of fighting in public itself. It can be charged in addition to charging someone with another crime like assault, or, in cases where there was no clear instigator or aggressor, the police can charge everyone in the fight with disorderly conduct. This category can also apply in certain instances where you use threatening language in a public place.
Hazardous or Physically Dangerous Behavior
The second category is defined under the code as “creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.” This is a broad, catch-all category, similar to the statute overall. Generally, it is charged in cases where people behave in such a way in a public place that could put people’s lives in danger. For example, setting off fireworks in a packed school gymnasium could qualify under this category as disorderly conduct.
The third and final category of disorderly conduct is the use of offensive language in public “with the purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing.” The language must be “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive.” Most times, offensive language is protected under the First Amendment, but this law criminalizes it if it occurs in public in a brash manner and is directed at a people or group of people, like screaming and cursing out a mall security guard in the middle of a crowded store.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Brigantine, NJ
Disorderly conduct is classified under New Jersey law as a petty disorderly persons offense. This is lowest level of criminal offense in New Jersey, similar to what are often called infractions in other states. However, you should not let its low-level classification lull you into a false sense of security. A disorderly conduct conviction can come with serious penalties, including up to 30 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Furthermore, a conviction on your criminal record can make it much more difficult to find gainful employment, get college financial aid, and get certain professional licenses.
How a Disorderly Conduct Case Unfolds in Brigantine, NJ
Sometimes, for petty disorderly persons offenses such as disorderly conduct, the police will simply write you a ticket or citation with a court date on it and send you on your way. Other times, you might be placed under arrest and transported to the local police station for the booking process, which includes you being photographed and fingerprinted. After booking, you will be kept in the station’s holding cell or taken to the local jail to be held until your bail hearing, which typically must occur with 48 hours of your booking.
Because the state of New Jersey virtually eliminated the use of cash bail in 2017, the judge will likely decide at this hearing between releasing you with no conditions, releasing you with non-monetary conditions such as attending drug counseling, or holding you in jail until the case is resolved. While it would be atypical for a judge to hold you for a petty disorderly persons offense, it can happen, and you should always have an experienced bail hearing attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych arguing at this hearing for you to be released without any conditions.
Your arraignment will occur in municipal court, where the case will unfold. Your lawyer is likely to advise you to plead not guilty at the arraignment while they collect more evidence and begin negotiating with the prosecutor about a potential deal. For those without extensive criminal records, a deal could include you enrolling in a pre-trial intervention program, where your charges are dropped if you complete is successfully. Of course, if you do not wish to take a deal, our attorneys will fight for your innocence at trial. Trials in the municipal court occur before a single judge who decides guilt or innocence, rather than a jury.
Call Our Skilled Brigantine, NJ Disorderly Conduct Lawyers
While it is classified as a “petty” offense, disorderly conduct can result in some consequences that are anything but petty, including jail time and a criminal record that could haunt you for years into the future. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Brigantine, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers will fight to get your charges downgraded or dismissed and to keep this single mistake from negatively impacting your future. For a free consultation, call our office at (609) 616-4956 today.