Wildwood serves as a summer, and even year-round, tourist destination for those looking for the quintessential Jersey shore experience. With its many bars and street festivals, a trip to Wildwood can be a great time. However, it can also turn into a legal nightmare if your partying gets out of hand and you end up charged with disorderly conduct. While this may sound like a relatively minor charge, it can come with serious consequences, including jail time.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Wildwood, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers have years of experience successfully defending both Wildwood residents and out-of-towners charged with this crime. We will be with you throughout the entire process to answer your questions, serve as your advocate, and work to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free consultation, call our office today at (609) 616-4956.
Definition of Disorderly Conduct in Wildwood, NJ
Disorderly conduct is often referred to as a “catch-all” charge, meaning that it applies a wide variety of behaviors and actions that are not criminalized elsewhere under the penal code. What all types of disorderly conduct have in common is that they must occur in public and involve some sort of breach of the peace. Moreover, you need to have committed the actions 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.
The types of behaviors that can lead to a disorderly conduct charge can generally be separated into three overarching categories.
Fighting and Violent or Threatening Behavior
This category of disorderly conduct is defined under the code as “[engaging] in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.” While actions you take as part of a fight, like punching someone, could lead to more serious charges like assault, the act of fighting in public itself is chargeable as disorderly conduct. Sometimes, when there is no clear aggressor or instigator of a public fight, the police will charge all participants with disorderly conduct. Furthermore, in certain instances where you make public threats, this charge can also apply.
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.” Much like the overall statute, this category is sort of a catch-all. It is commonly charged in situations where people’s drunken or simply foolish behavior puts other members of the public at risk. For example, setting off stink bombs in a movie theater could qualify as disorderly conduct under this category.
The third and final category is the use of offensive language in public. The language must be “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive” and spoken “with the purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing.” This section of the code can butt up against some First Amendment issues, but generally your offensive speech becomes illegal if is made in a brash way in public and directed at a person or a group of people. For example, if you scream and curse at a police officer for writing you a ticket, this charge could apply.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Wildwood, NJ
Under New Jersey law, disorderly conduct is classified as a petty disorderly persons offense. This is the lowest level criminal charge in New Jersey, similar to what many other states call infractions. However, this does not mean that the charge cannot result in serious consequences if you are convicted. Criminal penalties can include up to 30 days in county jail and fines of up to $1,000. Perhaps even more consequential is the fact that you will have a criminal conviction on your record, which can make it far harder for you to get a job, get into school, or get a professional license.
How a Disorderly Conduct Case Works in Wildwood, NJ
For a petty disorderly persons offense like this, the police may just issue you a citation with your court date on it and let you go on your way. Sometimes, they will place you under arrest and transport you to the local station to be booked. After booking you will be held in the holding cell or at the local jail until your bail hearing can occur, usually with 48 hours at most.
Since New Jersey virtually eliminated cash bail in 2017, the judge will now typically decide between releasing you on your own recognizance, releasing you with conditions such as attending drug counseling sessions, or hold you in jail until your case is resolved. It is uncommon, but not impossible, for a judge to hold someone for a petty disorderly persons offense like this. You should always have an experienced bail hearing attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych arguing for you at his hearing to make the best case for your release without any cumbersome conditions.
The case itself will begin with your arraignment in the municipal court, where your lawyer will likely advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while we assess the case and begin speaking to the prosecutor about a potential deal to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. In some cases where you have a clean record, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to let you into a pre-trial intervention program that will result in your charges being dismissed if you complete it successfully. If you do not wish to take a deal, we are always ready to fight for your innocence at trial. There are no jury trials in the municipal court; trials are held before a single judge who decides guilt or innocence on their own.
Call Our Skilled Wildwood, NJ Disorderly Conduct Lawyers Today
Despite the fact that disorderly conduct is classified as a “petty defense,” the consequences you can face are anything but petty. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Wildwood, NJ disorderly conduct lawyers have years of experience working with our clients charged with this crime to bring their case to a successful resolution. Call us today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.