It is illegal to gamble in a casino in New Jersey if you are under the age of 21. This offense is classified as a “disorderly persons offense,” which many people confuse with the crime of “disorderly conduct.” Disorderly conduct and underage gambling are two distinct offenses in New Jersey, but our Atlantic City underage gambling attorneys explain how these two offenses can be confusing and how they might overlap. If you or your child was arrested for underage gambling, call our law offices today to schedule a free consultation on your case.
Is Underage Gambling a Form of Disorderly Conduct in New Jersey?
Disorderly conduct is a distinct crime with its own specific requirements that must be met before a prosecutor can charge you with the offense. However, “disorderly conduct” is often confused with “disorderly persons,” leading to further confusion about what qualifies as disorderly conduct and when a crime is a disorderly persons offense.
In New Jersey, there are two levels of criminal offense: “indictable crimes” and “disorderly persons offenses.” Indictable crimes – or just “crimes” – are similar to felonies in other states and the federal system. Disorderly persons offenses are lower-level offenses that carry a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000, whereas indictable crimes carry potential penalties of over a year in prison.
Many charges qualify as “disorderly persons offenses,” including some simple assault offenses, some vandalism crimes, and the crime of disorderly conduct itself. Underage gambling is also a disorderly persons offense.
The Differences Between Disorderly Conduct and Underage Gambling in New Jersey
While the act of gambling underage may be “disorderly” in that it is against the law, it likely does not qualify as “disorderly conduct.”
The offense of disorderly conduct, as defined in N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-2, involves “[i]mproper behavior” that falls into certain categories. First, it is illegal to “cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” by fighting or “[creating] a hazardous or physically dangerous condition.” Alternatively, it is illegal to use harsh language against someone in a public place “with purpose to offend” them.
This means that, while underage gambling is also improper and illegal behavior, it does not qualify as “disorderly conduct.”
Instead, the underage gambling statute simply makes it illegal to enter a casino, or gamble once inside, if you are not old enough to drink. This ties the gambling age to NJ’s drinking age of 21 years-old. Gambling under 21 is a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to 6 months in jail, a fine of $500-$1,000, and a 6-month driver’s license suspension.
The confusion that many people face is confusing “disorderly conduct” and “disorderly persons offense.” In reality, disorderly conduct is a very light offense, classified as a “petty” disorderly persons offense. This means it only carries the potential maximum of a $500 fine. While disorderly conduct does carry the potential maximum of 6 months in jail, judges rarely order any jail time at all, capping it at 30 days in most cases where jail is ordered.
In contrast, underage gambling is actually a more serious offense. Because N.J.S.A. § 5:12-119 calls for a minimum fine of $500, this is automatically a more serious offense than disorderly conduct. In addition, the added 6-month license suspension can be a terrible penalty, especially for a young adult.
Can You Be Charged with Underage Gambling and Disorderly Conduct in an Atlantic City Casino?
Even though both of these offenses are disorderly persons offenses, there is nothing preventing you from facing charges for both offenses at once. If you are gambling illegally in a casino, you may also be drinking underage, which can lead to its own charges. Similarly, you could be committing disorderly conduct by bothering casino staff or patrons with offensive language, dangerous behavior, or other offensive conduct.
In addition to these crimes, you could be arrested for any other crimes you commit while gambling underage in an Atlantic City casino. Many casino crimes can be charged as juvenile offenses for those under 18, or as full-fledged criminal charges for those aged 18-21. The following are common examples of crimes charged for illegal conduct in and around casinos:
- Drug possession
- Soliciting prostitution
If you are caught committing any of these offenses, you could face separate charges alongside the underage gambling charges, potentially increasing your overall fines and jail time.
Call Our Atlantic City Underage Gambling Lawyer Today for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or your child was charged with underage gambling in Atlantic City, contact the Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys represent the accused and fight to get charges against them dropped and dismissed. To schedule a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (690) 800-2942.