Thousands of folks from all over New Jersey and the region flock to the Jersey Shore each summer for a fun time at the beach. However, especially when this fun time involves partying and alcohol, you can end up putting yourself in a bad situation by acting out of character and disturbing the peace. While a disorderly conduct charge may not seem like a “major” criminal situation, it can lead to long-lasting consequences if you are convicted.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Margate, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers have years of experience working to help our clients charged with this crime get their charges downgraded or dismissed. We understand that a single mistake should not define the rest of your life and will leave no stone unturned working to bring your case to the most positive possible resolution. For a free consultation, call our office today at (609) 616-4956.
The Crime of Disorderly Conduct in Margate, NJ
Disorderly conduct is somewhat of a “catch-all” offense, meaning it criminalizes several different but related types of behavior. The behavior must have been either purposeful, intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or reckless, meaning that you should have known that public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm would result from your action even if you claim you did not actually know. The crime must occur in public, meaning a place to which a substantial numbers of members of the public have access.
Generally speaking, the types of behavior that can get you charged with disorderly conduct can be divided into three categories. The first type of disorderly conduct that can be charged is “[engaging] in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.” Actions taken during a fight, such as punching someone, may constitute the more serious crime of assault. The act of disturbing the peace itself, by engaging in the fight in a public place, is what constitutes a disorderly conduct charge, however. Disorderly conduct is often the sole crime charged in situations where the fight was mutual, did not lead to major damage, and there was no clear aggressor. You can also be charged under this section for using threatening language that the officers do not believe went far enough to justify a charge of terroristic threats.
The second type of disorderly conduct is broadly defined by the statute as “creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.” This can include many different actions. Some examples include blocking an entrance or exit to a crowded place or setting off fireworks indoors. Essentially, this section criminalizes reckless behavior, particularly when you are drunk or high, that could result in harm to those around you, even if it does not.
The final type of disorderly conduct involves using offensive language in public. Obviously, the use of bad language in and of itself is not illegal. However, if the language is used “with the purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing,” and is “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive,” it can constitute disorderly conduct. Examples include cursing out a bartender, yelling offensive things at a police officer, or screaming and cursing for an extended time in a public place.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Margate, NJ
Disorderly conduct is classified as a “petty disorderly persons offense” in the state of New Jersey. This is on par with many traffic tickets and essentially the equivalent of what is known as an infraction in other states. While this is a less serious type of charge than most, you should not make the mistake of assuming it will not have serious negative consequences for you if you are convicted. First and foremost, you can face up to 30 days in county jail and fines up to $1,000. However, you will also have a criminal record that could make it difficult for you to find a job, get into school, or get a professional license in the future.
How a Disorderly Conduct Case Works in Margate, NJ
Sometimes, for petty disorderly persons offenses like disorderly conduct, the officer will simply issue you a ticket with a court date on it and let you go on your way. In other cases, you may be arrested. After your arrest, you will be taken to the station to be booked and held until your bail hearing. Since New Jersey virtually eliminated the use of cash bail in 2017, the judge will decide whether you can be released or must be held in jail until your case is resolved, based on factors like your prior criminal history and ties to the community. While it would be unusual for a judge to hold someone for a crime this minor, it can happen, which is why you should always have an experienced bail hearing attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych there arguing for your release.
At the arraignment, which will happen at or around the same time as the bail hearing, your lawyer will like advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty. Then, we will reach out the prosecutor to try to work out a deal to get the charges downgraded or dismissed. If you have a relatively clean record, we may be able to get you into a pre-trial intervention program, where your charges will be dropped if you complete it successfully. If you wish to take the case to trial, our skilled trial attorneys are always ready and willing. Note, however, that disorderly conduct trials will take place in the municipal court before a single judge, not a jury.
Call Our Experienced Margate, NJ Disorderly Conduct Lawyers Today
It can be tempting to think of disorderly conduct as more of a silly drunken mistake or a youthful indiscretion than a real crime. However, it is a serious offense that can come with severe consequences, including some that could follow you for many years. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Margate, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers will fight tooth and nail to tell your side of the story and bring your case to a positive end. Call our office today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.