Our Accomplished Former Prosecutors & Skilled Criminal Attorneys Are Ready To Defend Your Disorderly Conduct Charge
Being charged with disorderly conduct may seem like a minor offense, but under New Jersey law you can get jail time and pay hundreds of dollars in fines if convicted of a “petty disorderly persons offense.” And, if you apply for a job, admission to school, etc. your record will show your history of improper public behavior.
If you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct, you need a defense attorney experienced in New Jersey municipal courts to keep a bad decision, heated moment or a situation that simply got out of hand from marring your record. The defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are former New Jersey prosecutors and public defenders who have over 200 years of combined experience in municipal and county courtrooms across the state.
Act now for us to minimize the risks you face under a disorderly conduct complaint filed anywhere in New Jersey. We can begin immediately to reach out to our contacts and look into the circumstances of your case. If there are problems with your arrest, we can move to have charges dismissed without you having to go to court.
A conviction for disorderly conduct and the penalties that follow could be avoided with our help. Our firm has six offices in New Jersey, and we have the professional connections needed to quickly and easily resolve minor criminal charges, like disorderly conduct.
Call or fill out our online form for a free initial consultation with one of our experienced New Jersey defense attorneys today.
What Is a Disorderly Conduct Offense Under New Jersey Law?
New Jersey’s disorderly conduct law (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2) addresses two categories of acts in public for which a petty disorderly persons charge may be filed:
- Improper Behavior: This includes fighting or making threats or engaging in “violent or tumultuous behavior.” More broadly, you can be arrested for purposely or recklessly causing a risk of “public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” by fighting, violence or tumult, or by creating a “hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.”
- Offensive Language: This includes “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language” used purposely to offend those who hear it or in reckless disregard of the probability of offending anyone present. Whether a petty disorderly persons charge is appropriate is in part based on “the circumstances of the person present and the setting of the utterance.”
If you are found guilty of disorderly conduct, you could be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail and fined up to $1,000. You will also have to pay $50 for the Victims of Crime Compensation Board (VCCB), $75 for the Safe Neighborhood Services Fund, and $33 in court costs.
Many people charged with disorderly conduct go to court alone expecting a slap on the wrist. Then they plead guilty and are shocked at the severity of the punishment handed down. Don’t let it happen to you.
It is also important to understand that most municipalities have local ordinances prohibiting disorderly conduct. State law takes precedent over local ordinances, but you will need a lawyer to ague this point if a municipal court that knows your conduct did not violate the state standard attempts to convict you under a local ordinance.
With the experienced municipal court legal representation provided by the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, there are multiple opportunities to avoid penalties or even a guilty verdict in a disorderly conduct case. Never face a disorderly conduct charge—or any criminal charge—without qualified legal representation.
Potential Defenses When Facing a N.J. Disorderly Conduct Charge
New Jersey’s disorderly conduct law is drafted broadly to include a wide range of misbehavior and unwanted conduct. As such, it has become an overcharged, “add-on” offense charged alongside other crimes. It has also been subject to numerous court rulings as to how it can be applied.
As with any criminal charge, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged violated the law. This is not a given in any case, and your New Jersey disorderly conduct lawyer from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will always raise the questions that make the prosecutor’s task as difficult as possible.
New Jersey courts have ruled that in cases of allegedly improper public behavior:
- For disorderly conduct to be “public,” some plurality of persons must be placed in jeopardy of inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.
- Fighting must involve two or more people to be the basis for a disorderly conduct charge.
- Engaging in threats under the statute requires both verbal and physical threats.
- “Tumultuous behavior” is disorderly and violent movement that must be coupled with agitation and uproar of a crowd or group of people.
- Being uncooperative or loud and argumentative with police officers is not disorderly conduct on its own, even if it prevents a police officer from performing his or her duties.
In cases of allegedly offensive language, the matter of the language being “public” is key.
New Jersey’s disorderly conduct statute defines “public” conduct as “affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access; among the places included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, or any neighborhood.”
Simply being verbally abusive is not disorderly conduct. The allegedly offensive language must have been uttered in a public place and be likely to incite someone who hears it.
It is not uncommon for police to charge an individual for offensive language complaining that the suspect was verbally abusive, however, nothing in the statute makes it illegal.
And, of course, given our constitutional right to free speech, what can be said in public and what crosses the line into offensive language is dependent on the people involved and situation at hand. What you should be allowed to shout at a ballgame or on the street after a ballgame may not be as acceptable at a shopping mall, for example.
In many cases, disorderly conduct is charged along with more serious offenses, such as assault or rioting / failure to disperse. Disorderly conduct is also a handy charge for police dealing with large disturbances, in which participants and bystanders are rounded up, arrested and charged.
Other potential defenses in a disorderly conduct case include:
- Lack of probable cause
- Improper arrest, including failure to advise of your Miranda rights against self-incrimination
- Mistaken identity due to confusion at the time of arrest or a flawed lineup
- Racial, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, age or other bias
If we cannot have disorderly conduct charges against you dismissed, you may be eligible for conditional discharge, or probation. This requires that you have no previous conviction or prior diversion (for example, a conditional discharge, pretrial intervention, drug court, or a similar program in another state). You must also not be charged with any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense under New Jersey’s Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987.
Terms of conditional discharge probation require that you remain arrest-free for a year and comply with other requirements during this period (pay fines and court costs). Upon completion of the probation period, the original charge is removed from your record.
Meet With Our N.J. Disorderly Conduct Lawyers
If you have been charged with disorderly conduct anywhere in New Jersey, an attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will work diligently to seek the best available outcome for you. With an experienced and dedicated attorney like ours on the case, there are opportunities to avoid dealing with penalties and having a disorderly conduct conviction on your permanent record.
An initial legal consultation with the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is always free. Contact us at any of our six New Jersey locations as soon as possible.