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Understanding the Difference between Disorderly Persons and Disorderly Conduct

Posted by Carmine R. Villani | Jun 05, 2015 | 0 Comments

Disorderly Persons vs Disorderly Conduct

New Jersey laws may seem tricky at first glance; but they are set up in effort to keep communities running smoothly, calmly and peacefully. If you or a loved one has been charged with a disorderly persons offense or disorderly conduct, you probably have a lot of questions. What exactly are you facing? Will you go to jail? Will it show up on your record? Can you get out of it? And…what exactly is the difference between a disorderly persons charge and disorderly conduct?

New Jersey Disorderly Person (Misdemeanor) Offenses

Disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses are the most common variety of non-motor vehicle charges prosecuted in NJ Municipal courts. A disorderly persons offense generally falls into the category of acts that disturb the peace, shoplifting, public lewdness, fighting, possession of marijuana under 50 grams and resisting arrest and it will show up on your permanent record.

Understanding the Difference between Disorderly Persons and Disorderly Conduct

Petty Disorderly Persons Charge

Disorderly persons charges and petty disorderly persons charges differ in that they have significantly different penalties for a conviction. Petty disorderly persons offenses are graded even less than disorderly persons offenses because it is the least serious criminal offense (including disorderly conduct and harassment).

Crime vs Offense

In New Jersey, the term “crime” refers to indictable crimes and the term “offense” refers to disorderly person offenses, and petty disorderly person offenses. Disorderly person offenses and petty disorderly person offenses are the equivalent of misdemeanors in other states, because they are less serious offenses and are punishable by less than one year in jail.

New Jersey Disorderly Conduct Law (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2)

Laws against disorderly conduct, sometimes called “disturbing the peace” or “breach of the peace”, prohibit acting in a way that is likely to upset, anger, or annoy others. Disorderly conduct can be open to interpretation by the officers enforcing the law, so it is important to consult with a New Jersey Disorderly Conduct Lawyer immediately.
A wide variety of conduct falls under the disorderly conduct law including rioting, loitering, false public alarms, harassment, nuisance, abating nuisance, underage smoking, alcohol on school property and providing alcohol to minors. A conviction for disorderly conduct can include fines up to $500, counseling or anger management, restitution, community service and jail term.

Public Intoxication and Smoking In Public

In addition, public intoxication and smoking in public are also fall under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2. While public intoxication is not a crime in New Jersey, people who are drunk in public may be taken into protective custody by police (N.J.S.A. 26:2B-8). Smoking on public transit or in any public place where it is prohibited (whether by municipal law or by the owner) is considered a crime (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-13).

Build a Strong Defense

Don't run the risk of representing yourself in court or relying on a court-appointed attorney. Contact a NJ Disorderly Conduct Lawyer or a NJ Disorderly Persons Offense Attorney at 732-709-7757, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Start your defense before it is too late.

About the Author

Carmine R. Villani

Founding partner, Carmine Villani, Esq. is a former municipal prosecutor with over three decades of experience in Criminal and DWI Defense.


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