Shore towns like Ventnor are filled up every summer with people of all ages looking to soak up the sun and have a good time. Unfortunately, especially with drugs and alcohol in the mix, those looking to have fun can sometimes take things too far. If you cause a public disturbance in some way, you can end up being charged with disorderly conduct. While it may be tempting to think of this as a small issue, a conviction for disorderly conduct can lead to serious penalties, including not only fines and jail time but also the long-term consequences that come with living with a criminal record.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Ventnor, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers have many years of experience successfully defending clients facing this charge. We understand that a person’s life should not be destroyed over a single mistake they made, likely while intoxicated, and we will fight to work out a deal for your charges to be dropped or downgraded. For a free consultation, call our firm today at (609) 616-4956.
Definition of Disorderly Conduct in Ventnor, NJ
Disorderly conduct is commonly referred to as a “catch-all” charge, meaning that it encompasses multiple different behaviors. Broadly speaking, these behaviors can be classified into three categories. What they have in common is that they must have occurred purposefully, meaning with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or recklessly, meaning that a reasonable person should have known that public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm would result from their action. Furthermore, all three categories of disorderly conduct must be committed in public, defined as a place to which substantial numbers of the public typically have access.
The first category of behavior that can result in a disorderly conduct charge is described in the statute as “[engaging] in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.” This language criminalizes the disturbance caused by the fight to members of the public, rather than individual actions during the fight like slapping someone, which would be considered assault if it was not done in self-defense. In cases where there is no clear initial perpetrator of the fight, all participants might be charged under this section of the code rather than one of them being charged with assault. Threatening language can also be considered disorderly conduct under this section in some contexts.
The second category of disorderly conduct is “creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.” Like the overall statue, this section is quite broad and can encompass many things. Generally, it is used to charge people whose drunken, high, or simply foolish actions put other people in danger without actually causing harm, such as setting off fireworks indoors or throwing darts around the room in a crowded bar.
The third and final 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 state that this language must be “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive.” This language butts up against some First Amendment issues, as you cannot be charged with a crime for the mere utterance of bad language. The language must have been meant to incite someone or cause disorder, like in the case of loudly and repeatedly cursing out a ride attendant at a family theme park.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Ventnor, NJ
In New Jersey, disorderly conduct is classified as a “petty disorderly persons offense.” This is akin to an infraction in other states. However, you should not think because of its classification as a relatively minor crime that disorderly conduct cannot come with extremely negative consequences. Penalties can include up to 30 days in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Furthermore, you will have a conviction on your criminal record, which can prevent you from getting a job, getting into school, or getting a professional license of some sort.
How a Disorderly Conduct Case Plays Out in Ventnor, NJ
Oftentimes for an infraction-like charge such as this one, the police will simply issue you a ticket or citation of some sort and let you go on your way. In other cases, you might be arrested and transported to the local police station, where you will undergo the booking process. You will be kept in the holding cell or transported to the local jail until you bail hearing can be held.
Since New Jersey essentially eliminated the use of cash bail in 2017, the judge will now decide at your bail hearing whether you can be released or if you must be held in jail until the matter is resolved. The judge also has the option of imposing non-monetary conditions on your release, such as attending counseling. While it is not common for a judge to hold someone in jail for a disorderly conduct charge, it can happen. You should always have an experienced bail hearing attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych arguing on your behalf at the hearing to get you released without cumbersome conditions.
At your arraignment, your lawyer will likely advise you to plead not guilty while they assess the strength of the case. Then we will try to get the prosecutor to agree to drop or downgrade the charges or allow you into a pre-trial diversion program, where your charges will be dropped if you successfully complete it. We are also ready and able to take your case to trial if you wish. For this offense, you are entitled only to a bench trial before a judge, not a trial by jury.
Call Our Skilled Ventnor, NJ Disorderly Conduct Attorneys Today
While it may be technically classified as a “petty” crime, disorderly conduct can lead to some serious penalties and consequences. The best thing you can to protect yourself and your rights is to hire an experienced Ventnor, NJ disorderly conduct lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych as soon after your arrest as possible. The sooner we get to work on your case, the better chance we have of getting the charges dropped or dismissed. For a free consultation, call us today at (609) 616-4956.