Criminal defendants in New Jersey are often confused about the particular charge they face after being arrested for a New Jersey disorderly persons offense. “Disorderly Persons” is not a specific type of crime. In fact, they are not crimes at all under NJ law. Rather, they are akin to misdemeanors.
Nevertheless, they are state criminal offenses and will subject you to a permanent criminal record if not expunged after conviction. Its obviously better to avoid the conviction at all rather than having to wait the necessary five years before becoming eligible for an expungement. The first step is therefore to retain a New Jersey disorderly persons lawyer as early as possible.
New Jersey classifies criminal offenses under three different general categories. Indictable offenses (in turn graded from 1st to 4th degree crimes) are commonly referred to as felonies in other states. The other two categories are disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses.
Disorderly persons offenses in NJ include shoplifting, harassment, possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Disorderly persons offenses are punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Any offense involving drug possession in NJ, including possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana, also carry a 6 month minimum driver’s license suspension.
Disorderly persons offenses can be expunged after five years of conviction (or from when the individual pays off all fines and completes probation). The only diversionary program currently in place for disorderly persons offenses is the conditional discharge program. This is only available for possession of under 50 grams of marijuana. Anyone enrolling in the program must successfully complete 1 year probation, which may include random drug testing. After successful completion of the program, the charge is dismissed.