Ocean County, NJ Disorderly Conduct Lawyer
Every summer, the beach towns of Ocean County see an influx of tourists seeking to soak up the sun and enjoy themselves. While most of these tourists have a wonderful experience, things could quickly turn into a nightmare if your behavior gets out of hand and you are charged with disorderly conduct. Especially when drinking, this sort of conduct is unfortunately common and can lead to serious consequences, including a criminal record that could haunt you for many years into the future.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Ocean County, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers have years of experience in courtrooms throughout the county successfully working to get this charge downgraded or dismissed. Whether you are a year-round resident of Ocean County or a summer visitor, we will be there with you every step of the way to answer any questions you may have and to serve as your fearless advocate in and out of the courtroom. For a free consultation, contact our office today at (609) 616-4956.
Definition of Disorderly Conduct in Ocean County, NJ
Disorderly conduct functions as something of a “catch-all” charge, meaning that the statute criminalizes a broad variety of behaviors. These behaviors have two things in common. First, they must be committed in public, defined as “affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access.” Second, the conduct must 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.
Broadly speaking, the types of behaviors that qualify as disorderly conduct under the statute can be separated into three categories.
Fighting or Violence
This category is describe in the code as “[engaging] in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.” While specific actions you take during a fight, such as kicking or punching someone, will be penalized under other sections of the code, the act of disturbing the peace by engaging in the fight in a public place is punishable as disorderly conduct. Sometimes, this will be charged in addition to assault, or, in cases where the initial perpetrator of the fight is not clear, everyone who fought will be charged with disorderly conduct in lieu of one of two people facing assault or battery charges. The section also penalizes threatening words of behavior that would make reasonable people fearful, such as yelling that you have a bomb.
Hazardous or Physically Dangerous Behavior
The second category of disorderly conduct is defined as “creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.” Like the statute itself, this section is quite broad and could encompass a number of different behaviors. Often it is used to charge people in situations where they create a dangerous situation that could place people in harm’s way, even if no one was ultimately injured. An example would be getting wildly intoxicated and setting off a smoky stink bomb inside a crowded dance club.
The third category of disorderly conduct is using offensive language “with the purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing.” The statute goes on to note that such language must be “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive.” The use of offensive language is general is protected by the First Amendment, but under this statute in can be criminalized if it is “loudly and offensively” directed at a person or group of people in a public place. An example would be repeatedly screaming racial epithets at a store clerk for not giving you the correct change.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Ocean County, NJ
Disorderly conduct is classified as a petty disorderly persons offense, which is the most minor type of charge in the state of New Jersey, equivalent to what most other states call infractions. However, do not be lulled into a false sense of security that this charge cannot come with serious consequences, including penalties of up to 30 days in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. In addition, you will have a criminal record that can make it much more difficult to get a job, get into school or receive financial aid from a school, or become professionally licensed.
How a Disorderly Conduct Case Plays Out in Ocean County, NJ
Sometimes, for a petty disorderly persons offense like this, the police will just issue you a citation with a court date on it and let you go on your way. Other times, they may place you under arrest and hold you in detention until a bail hearing can occur. Since the 2017 virtual elimination of cash bail in New Jersey, the judge will choose between releasing you on your own recognizance, releasing you with non-monetary conditions like attending counseling, and holding you in detention until the underlying matter is resolved. While it is uncommon for a judge to hold you for a petty disorderly persons offense, it is possible. You should always have an experienced bail hearing lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych representing you at this hearing to make the most persuasive arguments for your release.
Your arraignment, and the whole case, will take place in the municipal court. After arraignment, your lawyer will speak with the prosecutor about the possibility of a plea deal. For those with clean criminal records, we may be able to get you into a pre-trial intervention program, where your charges will be dismissed if you complete it successfully. Of course, if you do not wish to take a deal, our skilled trial attorneys are always ready and able to fight for your innocence in the courtroom.
Call Our Experienced Ocean County, NJ Disorderly Conduct Attorneys Today
While it is classified as a petty offense, the consequences of a conviction for disorderly conduct can be quite severe. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Ocean County, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers have worked to bring the cases of many clients charged with this crime to a successful resolution. We will leave no stone unturned fighting to protect your future. Call us today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.