A charge for disorderly conduct can cover a myriad of criminal acts, from a rowdy bar fight to indecent behavior in a public place. Because the phrase “disorderly conduct” is used to describe and charge so many different types of conduct, people can easily lose track of what constitutes a disorderly conduct offense and what a conviction under this heading could entail.
While most actions that fall under the heading of disorderly conduct are not necessarily severe criminal acts (think of throwing an intoxicated punch as opposed to committing a calculated murder), the penalties can have a drastic impact on your personal and professional life. For that reason, it’s important to understand your charges and build your defense accordingly.
What Constitutes Disorderly Conduct?
A disorderly conduct offense has likely been committed whenever the police are called to break up a fight, or to apprehend someone who has been causing a scene or commotion by using loud and foul language in a public place. A person is also charged with disorderly conduct if his or her actions are endangering the welfare of another.
Disorderly conduct is addressed in N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2, which classifies it as a petty disorderly persons offense and the statute covers two types of conduct:
- Improper Behavior – Under 2C:33-2(a), a person can be charged with a petty disorderly conduct offense for exhibiting improper behavior, which can be fighting, tumultuous behavior, or physically threatening acts. This section also covers actions that create hazardous or physically dangerous conditions for other people for no good reason.
- Offensive Language – Under 2C:33-2(b), anyone who uses offensive, coarse, or abusive language in a public place, for the purpose of offending the listener, can be charged with disorderly conduct. This section also covers offensive language that is used not necessarily to offend the hearer, but in reckless disregard for those listening. Although offensive language is rarely charged as a criminal act, it is technically part of the disorderly conduct laws.
In both of these sections, a public place refers to any space where there is a substantial group of people. A library, public square, apartment building, bus, train, or other public transportation, a bar, shopping center, grocery store, office building are all considered public places, and improper behavior or offensive language occurring in such spaces can be charged as disorderly conduct.
If you are convicted of disorderly conduct, you may end up facing a fine of up to $500 and a potential jail sentence of 30 days. Additionally, a disorderly conduct conviction could affect your ability to get a job once your time has been served.
A disorderly conduct charge can have serious consequences even if you acted in a moment of anger or intoxication, so it’s important to meet with an Essex County criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss what happens next. You are innocent until proven guilty and you have the right to mount a plausible defense of your actions. For more information on disorderly conduct offenses in New Jersey, call Scott Gorman at The Gorman Law Firm for a consultation today.
Published in Categories: Criminal Defense