Disorderly Conduct Charges are a broadly defined criminal charge against public misbehavior in New Jersey. Disorderly conduct carries a criminal charge, though it might not be considered a ‘crime’ by some legal minds. It is a breach of the peace that can come from many different situations and result in criminal charges. It is essential to know about this statute if you are ever charged with disorderly conduct and want to protect yourself and your rights.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct (2C:33-2) is any behavior that causes public inconvenience, annoyance, or harm. The law specifically mentions fighting, behaving violently, and threatening violence. The law also states disorderly conduct exists when someone acts in a way that creates physically hazardous or dangerous conditions in which acts serve no legal purpose. Surprisingly, another common situation is simply shouting offensive language. The law defines offensive language as targeted language that’s unreasonably loud, is extremely coarse or abusive, and said with the purpose of offending others in a public space. Even if the person who reports the offensive language is not the intended target, it can still be considered disorderly conduct.
The law then defines public as any area that affects or is likely to affect people in a place with public access. Specifically named in the law are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment complexes, places of business or other amusement, and any neighborhood. Locations like malls, theme parks, airports, the subway, and other train stations are examples of public places, even if they have a private owner. Public also means spaces that hold larger events, like sports stadiums, concert venues, and bars.
Even if you did not intend to cause problems in public, you could still receive disorderly conduct charges. People who get in loud verbal arguments, particularly those with security personnel or law enforcement, face charges of disorderly conduct because these arguments occur in public. Because the statute defines “disorderly conduct” and “public” to cover a wide variety of situations, police and prosecutors can charge you with it in a variety of circumstances.
What Can Happen if I Receive Disorderly Conduct Charges?
Disorderly conduct comes with a variety of penalties. Its maximum sentence can be up to six months in jail. However, if this is your first offense, you’ll likely only face up to 30 days. Regardless, any time in custody can jeopardize one’s career, schooling, and social life. In addition to time behind bars, you can face fines up to $500.
Along with fines, the judge may order restitution, which is payment to the victim to restore their property. The cost of restitution usually equals the value of any damaged or destroyed property. It can also include other financial losses the victim has faced. You would also pay this to a victim’s compensation fund on top of additional fines and court costs.
You may receive probation instead of a jail sentence. However, the length may vary depending upon many factors. Your attorney should discuss this with you to go over the positives and negatives. Probation is not simply getting out of jail time. There are often conditions you will have to follow during probation.
Often, disorderly conduct charges come with other criminal charges. These can include more serious charges, such as assault, or other charges that carry heavy penalties. Charges and convictions are decided on a case-by-case basis and often negotiated by the judge, the prosecutor handling your case, and your defense attorney. Your defense attorney will advocate for you in these potential negotiations.
What Should I Do If I Receive Disorderly Conduct Charges?
As mentioned, disorderly conduct often comes with other charges. You can face multiple criminal charges for the same incident. It is essential to know your rights when charged with any crime. Before discussing anything with the police or prosecutor, it is best to talk to a defense attorney. Speaking only with your attorney may be the most important thing you can do in any criminal case. Your attorney will discuss the options you have and how best to proceed with your case. Remember, you always have the right to an attorney. You can also have your attorney’s information available if the police question you.
It’s a good idea to discuss the charges with your attorney. Be sure to mention any potential witnesses who may corroborate your story or any other information you think may be helpful. Do not forget that this can include friends or family with you when charged or arrested. Photos or videos taken during the event, or anything that may back up your version of events, are also evidence you can use.
Again, your defense attorney will be your advocate in any negotiation process between the prosecution and the judge. Your attorney may be able to either have the charges dropped or combined with another charge. In addition, your attorney will keep you up to date on your case and will know how best to negotiate for you in this situation.
As cases can vary widely depending on the circumstances, you should discuss your case with your attorney. This means you will receive the best, most specific advice possible. Call Leon Matchin at 732-887-2479 or email him at [email protected] to discuss your case today.