How Do You Defend Against a Disorderly Persons Offense in New Jersey?
Posted by Scott Gorman - July 31, 2023

Most people who have a run-in with the law in New Jersey get charged with a disorderly persons offense. These are New Jersey’s lower-level crimes—similar to the “misdemeanor” classification in most other states.

But, even though disorderly persons offenses are lower-level crimes, they still carry serious penalties. A conviction can lead to up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail—among other consequences. So, you need to take your case very seriously, and this starts with talking to a Morristown criminal attorney about the defenses you have available.

Defenses to Disorderly Persons Offenses in New Jersey

What defenses can you use to fight your disorderly persons charge? There are several possibilities, including:

1. Insufficient Evidence of Any “Element” of the Crime

The prosecution has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—and it must meet this burden with respect to each individual “element” of the offense with which you are being charged. All disorderly persons offenses have multiple elements. If the prosecution’s evidence of any single element is lacking, you are entitled to a dismissal or an acquittal at trial.

To avoid a conviction, you do not have to prove that you are innocent—you just need to prevent the prosecution from proving that you are guilty. If your attorney can expose any shortcomings in the prosecution’s evidence, this should be enough to save you from a conviction.

2. Affirmative Defenses

In some cases, it will be possible to avoid a conviction for a disorderly persons offense by asserting what is known as an “affirmative defense.” When you assert an affirmative defense, you are essentially providing a justification for conduct that would otherwise warrant a conviction.

For example, one of the most common affirmative defenses is self-defense. If you are being charged with simple assault (which is a disorderly persons offense under New Jersey law), it may be possible to avoid a conviction by showing that your use of force was justified under the circumstances at hand. Other examples of affirmative defenses include:

  • Defense of others
  • Defense of premises or property
  • Non-voluntary intoxication
  • Necessity
  • Entrapment

3. Constitutional Defenses

Any time you are facing criminal allegations, you have constitutional rights. This is true whether you are being accused of a disorderly persons offense or a serious indictable crime like rape or murder.

If the police or prosecutors violate your constitutional rights, this can entitle you to a dismissal or acquittal as well. Some examples of potential constitutional defenses in disorderly persons cases include:

  • Conducting an unlawful traffic stop
  • Conducting an unlawful search or seizure
  • Conducting an unlawful arrest
  • Withholding exculpatory evidence before trial
  • Violating your right to a speedy trial

Contact Morristown Criminal Attorney Scott Gorman

Again, these are just examples of the defenses you may have available. To learn about all of the defenses you can use to fight your disorderly persons charge, contact us to arrange a free initial consultation. Call 973-796-3800 or request an appointment online to speak with Morristown criminal attorney Scott Gorman in confidence as soon as possible.

Published in Categories: Criminal Defense