New Jersey law classifies crimes in different ways. These classifications are based on the severity of the crime and dictate the associated consequences. Before feeling overwhelmed about a charge you or a loved one received, take a moment to dive into the different ways charges are categorized.

Disorderly Person’s Offense

A disorderly person’s offense is not considered a crime in the state of New Jersey. Thus, with this type of offense, the defendant does not have the right to a jury. Even though a disorderly person’s offense isn’t labeled as a crime, it does still come with penalties. Depending on the offense, a defendant could face jail time, fines, and a mark on their permanent record. Here are some examples of things that fall under the disorderly person’s offense:


Shoplifting is an offense that can be classified as a disorderly person’s offense or can be a second-, third-, or fourth-degree crime. It all depends on the amount that was stolen. If the value of the item/items stolen was less than $200, the shoplifting charge will be a disorderly person’s offense. The case will be handled at the municipal court level. Penalties include up to 6 months of jail time. Often, jail time can be avoided with the help of an attorney.

Disorderly Conduct and New Jersey Law

Disorderly conduct is an offense that involves aggressive behavior towards people in a public setting. The definition includes using profane language directed at someone, drunk in public, loitering, etc. This charge comes along with fines and up to 30 days in jail.

Simple Assault

Assault can be classified in a variety of ways. While aggravated assault is a more serious crime, simple assault falls under the disorderly person’s charge. Simple assault includes threats of violence or minor injuries. Aggravated assault, on the other hand, includes much more violent attacks. The penalties for simple assault include jail time of up to 6 months and a fine as high as $1,000.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Possession of drug paraphernalia means you have ownership of some type of object to use for drug consumption or distribution. While the actual possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) is an indictable crime, possession of drug paraphernalia is a disorderly person’s offense. The penalties include up to six months of jail time, a fine of $500-$1,000, and the potential to have your driver’s license suspended for two years.

New Jersey Law and Resisting Arrest

Resisting arrest is often an add-on charge. First, you have the original charge (the reason why you were getting arrested). Second, if you resist the arrest, the police officer can tack on resisting arrest as a disorderly person’s offense. This charge comes with up to six months of jail time. Keep in mind that resisting arrest can quickly turn into a third- or fourth-degree crime if you attempt to run away or use violence against a police officer.

First-, Second-, Third-, & Fourth-Degree Crimes 

First-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree crimes are more serious than disorderly person’s offenses. A first-degree crime is the most serious. These crimes go to higher-level courts with a jury. The degree depends on the situation. For example, property damage can be a second-, third-, and fourth-degree crime. The distinction depends on the item damaged and how much it cost. Here are some examples of the indictable crimes: 

  • First-Degree Crimes: murder, rape, arson, aggravated kidnapping
  • Second-Degree Crimes: property damage that leads to death, aggravated assault, shoplifting an item over $75,000
  • Third-Degree Crimes: tampering with gas or water mains, tampering with a grave, shoplifting an item over $500 but less than $75,000, property damage of up to $2,000, aggravated assault
  • Fourth-Degree Crimes: tampering with an aviation facility, shoplifting an item between $200 and $500, property damage between $500 and $2,000, aggravated assault. 

Each of these crimes includes penalties of jail time and fines. The length of jail time and the amount of the fine all depend on the degree of the crime and the specific situation. An experienced lawyer will always be able to help you navigate your charges and the associated potential penalties. 

New Jersey Law & The Help of an Attorney 

With New Jersey law, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Between the legal jargon as well as different levels of offenses, it can be stressful trying to figure out your charge and potential consequences. The first step is to work with a highly qualified attorney like Leon Matchin. He has years of experience helping defend clients in court. His goal is always to create a case to potentially have your charges dropped so that you don’t face any penalties. That’s not always possible, so the next step is to have charges downgraded so that you face less severe penalties.

For example, what if you face shoplifting charges as a fourth-degree crime? In that case, there is the possibility that in court, your attorney could have charges downgraded to a disorderly person’s offense so that you are facing less jail time and lower fines. When you meet with your attorney for your first consultation, tell them every detail about your situation. Also, bring any supporting documents or evidence that can help build your case. Leon Matchin offers free, no-pressure and no-obligation initial consultations. 

Getting any kind of charge is scary, whether it be a disorderly person’s offense or a first-degree crime. The key to making it through your court hearing is to have a good lawyer by your side. A lawyer can also help you understand your charges and your penalties. They will also comb through the details of your case in order to create a compelling case to have your charges dropped or downgraded. Take the first step and contact Leon Matchin, an experienced and highly qualified New Jersey attorney. For more information about New Jersey attorney Leon Matchin and how he can help, contact Leon right away by phone at (833) 732-7320, or email him at [email protected]