Disorderly conduct is a relatively broad criminal offense used to punish many things that seem antisocial or disruptive, but don’t necessarily fit into another statute. Some of the conduct described in the disorderly conduct statute overlaps with other crimes, and disorderly conduct may actually be used as a lower-level charge to cover the same conduct and avoid harsher fines associated with other, more serious offenses. If you or a loved one was charged with disorderly conduct in Atlantic City, it is important to understand the charges and see which category of “disorderly conduct” your case fits into. For a free consultation on your disorderly conduct case, contact The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City disorderly conduct defense attorneys today.
The 3 Types of Disorderly Conduct Charges in Atlantic City
New Jersey’s disorderly conduct statute is found at N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-2, part of the NJ Code of Criminal Justice. These offenses are all classified as a “petty disorderly persons offense” in NJ. This is the lowest level of criminal offense, punished by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $500. In most cases, the jail time is not ordered, but it is always a possibility. Since this is a crime, you could be arrested, booked, released on bail, and ordered to appear in court for your case.
As for the specific conduct this statute criminalizes, there are three specific types of conduct listed under NJ’s statute:
Engaging in Fighting
The first type of disorderly conduct under the NJ statute is “engag[ing] in fighting.” Alternatively, this subsection of the statute also covers “violent or tumultuous behavior.” This can usually be charged in cases of an argument that gets out of hand or in cases where someone is doing something dangerous and acting violently toward others, but has not actually attacked anyone or committed another crime. Most instances of disorderly conduct under this situation fill the gaps left by the definitions of other crimes with more severe penalties, like assault.
In many cases of mutual fights, assault charges are appropriate. However, defense attorneys understand that these charges may be disorderly persons offenses (not “petty” ones), carrying higher fines. In addition, assault charges on your criminal record automatically give anyone who sees the record the impression that you might have violent tendencies. Many defense attorneys may try to get assault charges reduced to disorderly conduct charges for engaging in fighting if the charges cannot be dropped or dismissed. Otherwise, these charges might be more appropriate than any more severe violent charges for other conduct.
Creating Hazardous Conditions
The second type of disorderly conduct charges is for creating “hazardous or physically dangerous condition[s].” To qualify as disorderly conduct, the actions the defendant takes must “[serve] no legitimate purpose.” That means that many dangerous conditions you could create are automatically disqualified from disorderly conduct charges if they are constructive. For instance, using harsh chemicals, power tools, or other equipment might be a danger to those around you, but if you are working on a home improvement or construction project, the act’s legitimate purpose should overcome any disorderly conduct claims.
Instead, these charges are usually aimed at things that pose a danger to others when performed as pranks or to disrupt or annoy others. For instance, setting off fireworks at night time or releasing a “stink bomb” in a crowded place would certainly be disruptive and potentially dangerous, and these acts would likely qualify as disorderly conduct.
It seems strange for there to be a statute against “offensive language,” but subsection (b) of New Jersey’s disorderly conduct statute does criminalize offensive language. Rather than broadly punishing coarse word choice, this statute only applies to language that is used in a public place and is intended to offend those who hear it. This language usually must be “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language, given the circumstances.” This means that screaming curse words in a church would likely qualify as disorderly conduct, but doing the same at a sporting event or a concert might not.
In many cases, the abusiveness or the volume of the language is the key factor in these charges. For instance, abusive, loud, and disrespectful language used against a police officer ticketing your car or a bartender who refuses to serve you for intoxication might be considered disorderly conduct. In addition, this statute could apply to people speaking loudly and using offensive language late at night in a hotel hallway or residential neighborhood. These charges may also be used as a lowered charge for crimes like terroristic threats.
Free Consultations on Disorderly Conduct Charges in Atlantic City, NJ
If you or someone in your family was charged with disorderly conduct in Atlantic City, talk to an attorney about your case today. The Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent people accused of minor and serious crimes alike in the Atlantic City area. To schedule a free consultation to understand your charges, the potential penalties, and the trial process, call our law offices today. Our number is (609) 616-4956.