You may have heard of the term “disorderly person’s offense,” but what does this charge mean? A disorderly person’s offense in New Jersey is similar to what other states call a “misdemeanor.” This charge includes lower-level, less serious crimes like shoplifting and possessing drug paraphernalia. When it comes to consequences, the punishments are less severe than they are for other charges like second- and third-degree crimes. Even though this charge is less severe than others, it will still result in a criminal record. A criminal record means that when you apply for a job or college in the future, they will be able to see that you have received a disorderly person’s offense.

If you have been charged, the best thing to do is contact a New Jersey attorney as soon as possible. Working with an experienced attorney can often lead to charges being downgraded or entirely dismissed. Also, take some time to learn all you can about the charge, so you know what to expect and how to avoid it in the future.

Disorderly Person’s Offense Crimes

In New Jersey, offenses and crimes are classified in many ways. Between disorderly person’s offenses, first-degree crimes, second-degree crimes, third-degree crimes, and fourth-degree crimes, it can get confusing! Each level comes with its own penalties and consequences. A disorderly person’s offense is the lowest offense level in New Jersey and is heard in the Municipal Court system. Here are some examples of crimes that are considered disorderly person’s offenses:

  • Shoplifting (item worth less than $200)
  • Simple assault
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Harassment
  • Resisting arrest
  • Lewdness
  • Writing bad checks
  • Property theft (worth less than $200)
  • Criminal mischief (damage less than $200)
  • Trespassing

As you can see, many different offenses fall under the disorderly person’s category. Your attorney will further guide you and help you understand your charge and strategies to fight it in court.

Consequences of Disorderly Person’s Offense Charges

Compared to other crimes, a disorderly person’s offense generally comes with less severe penalties. However, defendants still will face a maximum of six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Certain offenses fall under the category of “petty disorderly person’s offenses,” including harassment and disorderly conduct. These charges come with jail time of up to 30 days and a $500 fine. While these penalties are less harsh than those associated with other types of crimes, they are still very disruptive. Six months in jail is not easy, and a $1,000 fine can be very financially challenging. Fighting these charges to have penalties reduced or dropped is why having an excellent lawyer is necessary.


An expungement is an excellent option for those who have received a disorderly person’s offense charge. Having a charge expunged removes your criminal record. This means that if you are applying for a job post-expungement, you can honestly say that you don’t have a criminal history. Keep in mind, you cannot have the charge expunged right away. You must wait five years before you can apply for expungement. The five-year waiting period will start once the judge gives the sentence, all your fines have been paid, and upon completion of either jail time or a parole/probation period. Also, if you have more than four disorderly person’s charges on your record, you cannot apply for expungement. The application process for expungement can be challenging, but an experienced attorney like Leon Matchin will help you through it. With his help, your presence in court might not even be necessary!

While expungement is a great option, there are certain circumstances where your charge will still show up on your record. If you are applying for a job with a law enforcement agency or within the judicial branch of the government, you must report that your records were expunged. These two fields of work are the exception. For most job applications, after expungement you can state you have no criminal record.

How a New Jersey Attorney Can Help

Having a New Jersey attorney is a must when fighting a disorderly person’s charge. An attorney like Leon Matchin is very familiar with disorderly person’s charges and has successfully fought many of them at the Municipal Court level. His main goal is always to have the charge completely dropped. Depending on the situation and the defense, a dropped charge is a possibility. For example, imagine you were charged with simple assault (committed out of self-defense), and you received a disorderly person’s charge. You may be able to avoid jail time and fines if your attorney can provide solid evidence to show that you were acting in self-defense. Even if the charges can’t be dropped completely, many times, penalties may be reduced to avoid jail time.  

Many offenses fall under the disorderly person’s category in New Jersey. This charge includes things like shoplifting, simple assault, resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, and more. The maximum penalties for a disorderly person’s offense are a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. If you’ve received a petty disorderly person’s offense, you are looking at up to 30 days of jail time and a $500 fine. Fortunately, an experienced New Jersey attorney like Leon Matchin can help you fight the charge to have it potentially dropped or downgraded. If you or a loved one are facing a disorderly person’s offense charge, don’t wait another minute. Contact an attorney as soon as possible. Contact Leon Matchin by phone at (833) 732-7320, or email him at [email protected]. He will set up a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and go over your options.