The term disorderly conduct serves as sort of a catchall offense for many kinds of improper behavior. Many people are confused as what they are exactly charged with they are accused of disorderly conduct. To be clear, disorderly conduct when charged under NJSA 2C:33-2, while not a “crime” under New Jersey law, is still a criminal offense. Specifically, it is a petty disorderly persons offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. You will be assessed three additional financial penalties equaling $50, $75, and court costs of $33 if convicted of this offense.
Some people mistakenly believe that they have not been charged with a criminal offense. This may cause them to plead guilty and wind up with a criminal conviction which may not be expunged for 5 years, or in some cases, never, depending on your criminal record. One source for this confusion may be that many local townships, cities, and boroughs have their own ordinance violations that prohibit improper behavior. These are often also called “disorderly conduct” ordinances, which creates some confusion as to what class of offense you have been charged with.
If you have been charged with any criminal offense, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. You need to understand what exact charges and consequences you face before making any decision in your case.
a. Improper behavior. A person is guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense, if with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof he
b. Offensive language. A person is guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense if, in a public place, and with purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing, he addresses unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language, given the circumstances of the person present and the setting of the utterance, to any person present.
“Public” means 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.
One point to note is that conduct that in some cases may be considered an assault, may really be a less serious case of disorderly conduct. This occurs when a fight is engaged in mutually by both parties, rather than a real assault by only one of those individuals.
The mental state required for liability under subsection (a) is a little slippery. The statute first mentions “purposely,” but later extends to liability to situations where someone acts “reckless.” In any event, there must be an indication that the conduct was committed in order to or was likely to cause a public inconvenience or alarm. Clearly, the offense must be directed toward the public.
The offensive language portion of the statute under subsection (b) typically is charged after some kind of verbal altercation with a citizen or police officer. Many people make the mistake of losing their temper when they are issued a traffic ticket or are confronted by the police. Cursing at or insulting a police officer can easily cause them to charge you with disorderly conduct, First Amendment Rights notwithstanding.
At The Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC we take care to provide individual attention to those who are fighting a disorderly conduct charge. Call one of our offices located across New Jersey, in Freehold, Mt. Laurel, Princeton, Jersey City, Woodbridge, or Red Bank today for a free consultation.
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