When out in public, everyone is expected to behave in a certain manner. Public disruptions and offensive behavior may draw the attention of law enforcement and you could be charged with disorderly conduct. Many people do not know why they are charged with disorderly conduct because they do not fully understand what the charge is for.
Disorderly conduct typically involves offensive behavior and public disruptions. One of the most common causes for disorderly conduct charges is fighting in public. Being charged and convicted of a criminal offense can carry serious consequences. Disorderly conduct, like other offenses, has the potential for jail time, fines and other criminal penalties.
If you or a loved one has been charged with this or another crime in New Jersey, you need immediate legal assistance by your side. Let experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney John J. Zarych help you during this difficult time. Call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych for a free, confidential consultation on your case. Contact our New Jersey disorderly conduct defense lawyers today at (609) 616-4956.
What Qualifies as Disorderly Conduct in New Jersey?
According to the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice 2C:33-2, disorderly conduct may involve improper behavior or offensive language. According to the above statute, disorderly conduct involving inappropriate behavior occurs when a person engages in fighting or threatening, or violent behavior. Furthermore, this also applies in cases where the defendant creates a physically dangerous condition that serves no legitimate purpose.
Disorderly conduct can also happen because of the use of offensive language. Disorderly conduct under this premise occurs when a person uses abusive language with the intention of offending another individual. Moreover, this type of behavior extends to the setting where the alleged offender wielded the offensive language and the people who hear it. Offensive language that leads to disorderly conduct charges is often very loud and in a public place.
Many people may think that taking part in this type of behavior may not be punishable by law; after all, they are “only words.” Similarly, many defendants do not believe that fighting will lead to disorderly conduct charges because they believe the fight was started by someone else. However, being charged with disorderly conduct in New Jersey can be more severe than you might expect. Call our New Jersey disorderly conduct defense attorneys for help and guidance through this challenging time.
Situations That May Lead to Disorderly Conduct Charges in New Jersey
Disorderly conduct charges stem from inappropriate, abusive, or offensive behavior that occurs in public. Certain places and settings that have a more chaotic or unpredictable atmosphere are often found at the center of disorderly conduct cases. Knowing what kinds of situations often lead to disorderly conduct charges may help you understand why you were charged in the first place.
Bars and nightclubs are commonly associated with disorderly conduct charges. This is likely due to the consumption of alcohol by bar patrons and club-goers. After a night of drinking, a person’s behavior can become more unpredictable and they may act out in ways they ordinarily would not. Bar fights very frequently lead to disorderly conduct charges. Fights need not be physical either. Screaming matches between two angry people in a public setting, like at a bar or on the street outside of a bar, can also lead to disorderly conduct charges.
If you were in a fight that resulted in criminal charges, contact our New Jersey disorderly conduct attorneys for assistance.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct Charges in New Jersey
In New Jersey, criminal offenses are not categorized as felonies or misdemeanors as they are in most other states. Instead, New Jersey refers to serious offenses as “crimes” and less serious offenses as “disorderly persons offenses.” Especially minor offenses are called “petty disorderly persons offenses.” Disorderly conduct is considered a petty disorderly persons offense, so it carries relatively light penalties. However, these charges should still be taken seriously as the penalties they entail are rather unpleasant.
Disorderly conduct in New Jersey is a petty disorderly persons offense, which is similar to a minor misdemeanor. If found guilty of this offense, you may face up to 30 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. These penalties may sound like no big deal compared to the penalties for more serious offenses, but that does not mean you should disregard your charges. Spending 30 days in jail is an entire month away from your family and loved ones. Going to jail could also cost you your job as your employer may replace you while you are incarcerated.
Furthermore, if found guilty, your conviction will remain in your criminal record. Even though disorderly conduct charges are relatively minor, they will remain on your criminal record until you can have them expunged. Having a conviction in your file can make things like finding employment and renting a place much more difficult. In such times, you need the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with cases just like yours. Contact our New Jersey disorderly conduct defense lawyers to get the help you need.
Can I Defend Myself Against Disorderly Conduct Charges in New Jersey?
Defending yourself against a disorderly conduct charge requires a deep understanding of the law and how criminal procedure works. Keep in mind that as a defendant, it is not your responsibility to show that you are innocent. The prosecutor in your case must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged crime. This means they have the burden of showing that you are responsible for the acts for which you were charged. If they cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged offense, you should not be found guilty.
Another way to defend yourself against disorderly conduct charges is by arguing you did not have the intention of bothering anyone at the moment of the alleged offense. Disorderly conduct charges require that the defendant intended to cause public offense with their behavior. It may be possible to establish that you did not have any intention of causing discomfort to those who saw you or heard you. It is also possible to determine that you were unaware that acting the way you did would annoy other people around you.
In addition, disorderly conduct charges related to the use of offensive language require that your language be unreasonably loud, course, and abusive. We may be able to fight your charges by claiming that your language, although course and offensive, was not unreasonable under the circumstances. For example, loud and abusive language in an elementary school is not the same as loud and abusive language at a college party. The public setting of your disorderly conduct can make all the difference in your charges.
However, the public nature of disorderly conduct charges can act as a double-edged sword. While you may be charged for abusive or offensive public behavior, you also have rights protecting your freedom of speech and expression in public.
Call our New Jersey disorderly conduct defense lawyers for more information about how to mount an effective defense.
Plea Bargains and Disorderly Conduct Charges in New Jersey
Many criminal cases are resolved through the process of plea bargaining. A plea bargain is like an agreement or a deal between the prosecutor and the defendant. Usually, the prosecutor agrees to drop some charges or reduce them while the defendant agrees to plead guilty and waive their right to a trial. Plea bargains can be very helpful when you have a weak case and the likelihood of a favorable jury verdict is low.
Plea bargains are sometimes helpful with cases involving disorderly conduct charges. However, this is usually the case when there are other more serious charges in addition to the disorderly conduct. On its own, disorderly conduct is a petty disorderly persons offense, one of the lowest offenses that can be charged. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to reduce this charge to anything lower. A prosecutor is unlikely even to entertain the idea of reducing disorderly conduct charges.
However, plea bargaining can be used when you have multiple charges, including disorderly conduct. In many plea bargain negotiations, prosecutors are willing to drop low-level offenses in exchange for a guilty plea to the more serious crimes. For example, suppose you were charged with disorderly conduct and assault as a result of a public fight. In that case, we could negotiate with prosecutors to drop your disorderly conduct charge and we would plead guilty to the assault. The more charges we can have dropped, the lesser your final sentence will be.
Contact our New Jersey criminal disorderly conduct attorneys to discuss your potential options at trial and beyond.
Will a Disorderly Conduct Conviction Remain on My Record?
Disorderly conduct is a petty disorderly person offense and considered a lesser offense. However, if convicted for this crime, not only you will be subject to the corresponding penalties set forth by law, but your conviction will also appear on your criminal record. You will likely face the same results if you plead guilty to the charges against you. Once in your record, your conviction will make it hard for you to find a job, employment, or housing.
However, people who have been convicted of disorderly conduct may have their sentence removed from their record through “expungement.” Expungement is a legal process by which a court may order a criminal conviction to be erased from an individual’s record for all legal purposes. Nevertheless, this process can take a long time, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your case.
Keep in mind that the court will grant an expungement to people who have left their criminal life behind them, have paid all outstanding fines, and have no pending criminal charges, among other considerations. Our skilled, knowledgeable, New Jersey disorderly conduct defense attorneys can help you determine the best course of action following your disorderly conduct charges.
Call Our New Jersey Disorderly Conduct Defense Attorneys for a Free Legal Consultation
Despite being a lesser crime compared to felonies, a disorderly conduct conviction can still lead to severe consequences. If you or a loved one has been charged with disorderly conduct our New Jersey disorderly conduct defense lawyers may be able to help. Skilled criminal defense attorney John J. Zarych can help you to uphold your rights as a defendant. Let our experience and knowledge work for you during this difficult time. To learn more about your case in a free, confidential consultation, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.