Some crimes cover things that seem obviously criminal, like hurting others or stealing money. Something like disorderly conduct may be a disturbance, but it doesn’t seem particularly criminal. Things are further confused by the names that New Jersey uses for different levels of offenses. While disorderly conduct is a low-level offense in New Jersey, it is still equivalent to a criminal charge. Because of this, it is important that you talk to an Atlantic City criminal defense attorney if you were charged with disorderly conduct in Atlantic City. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City disorderly conduct lawyers are available for a free consultation on your case.
Is Disorderly Conduct a Crime in NJ?
There are two general categories of criminal offense in New Jersey. While most states break down crimes into felonies and misdemeanors, New Jersey instead uses the terms “indicatable offenses” (or “indictable crimes”) and “disorderly persons offenses.” Indictable offenses are commonly called “crimes,” and their statutes refer to these offenses as one of the four “degrees” of crime. For example, aggravated assault is a “third degree crime” in many circumstances. Every indictable offense carries the potential of more than a year in prison, and is the equivalent of other states’ felonies.
A disorderly persons offense is still technically a crime, but carries lowered penalties. The confusing language of calling felonies “crimes” in New Jersey may lead people to believe that disorderly persons charges are not crimes, but rather “offenses” that carry lighter penalties. This distinction is ultimately unhelpful, since you can still be arrested, go to trial, and spend time in jail for a disorderly persons offense. However, while indictable crimes carry the possibility of over a year in prison, disorderly persons offenses carry a maximum of 6 months in jail.
Disorderly persons offenses also create confusion with their name when discussing the crime of disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is a specific crime which makes it illegal to act boisterously or dangerously. Disorderly persons offenses are, instead, a class of crime, which includes multiple specific offenses, such as some forms of theft, some forms of simple assault, and other offenses.
Since disorderly conduct is an example of a disorderly persons offense, it is indeed a crime. However, it is the lowest level of crime that New Jersey has. Under the category of “disorderly persons offenses,” there is an even lower level of crime for “petty disorderly persons offenses.” These crimes, which include disorderly conduct, are punished by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $500. However, these crimes usually have 0-30 days in jail as punishment. Other disorderly persons crimes have potential fines of $1,000 plus 6 months in jail, so this is an even lower-level crime.
What is the Process for Disorderly Conduct Charges
Since disorderly conduct is a crime that carries the potential of jail time, you have the right to an attorney and a trial. New Jersey typically tries indictable crimes in county courthouses, whereas disorderly persons cases are usually sent to municipal courts. Since these cases are not as serious, the trial time, preparation, and intensity are often lower, and disorderly persons charges are often handled much more quickly than more serious charges.
After arrest, you may be placed on bail or released on your own recognizance (ROR), and given a court date. You must follow any bail terms given to you, and you must appear at any court dates. When you go back to court, you have the right to bring an attorney with you.
Often, the next step for a simple charge like disorderly conduct is either to plea to the offense, demand a trial, or apply to a diversionary program. You may be able to plead guilty to a crime like disorderly conduct, and judges and prosecutors may accept your payment of the fine and not demand jail time. However, there is no guarantee this will keep you out of jail, and it is a guarantee that this crime will appear on your criminal record. Alternatively, if what you did fell short of a crime, you were falsely accused, or you had a justifiable reason to commit the crime, you may be able to challenge your case at trial. Your attorney can represent you, cross examine witnesses and police, and present evidence in your defense. Winning a case this way will end the process against you.
Lastly, you may be able to work with the prosecutors or police to have the charges dropped. Your attorney may be able to work out an agreement where you can take anger management classes or seek drug or alcohol abuse treatment in exchange for dropping the charges against you. Not only will this help with whatever underlying issues caused you to commit this offense in the first place, but it will also protect your criminal record from the black mark of a conviction.
South Jersey Disorderly Conduct Lawyers
If you or a loved one was charged with a disorderly conduct crime in Atlantic City, it is important to understand the severity of the charges against you and the options you have. For a free consultation with a South Jersey disorderly conduct defense lawyer, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.