Disorderly Conduct or Improper Behavior Charges in Morris County NJ
Morris County NJ Disorderly Conduct Defense Lawyers with offices in Morristown, New Jersey
Disorderly Conduct is a common offense that our Morristown NJ criminal defense lawyers handle at the Morristown Municipal Court. It is important to understand if you have been charged with a crime, a disorderly persons offense, or a local ordinance violation because you will be facing vastly different penalties and the consequences can be severe if you don’t understand the charges against you. Many of these disorderly conduct charges result from a night out on the town, alcohol consumption, and then an argument or disagreement. In order to find probable cause for a disorderly conduct charge, a law enforcement officer must observe (or have witnesses that observed) improper or tumultuous behavior or offensive language in a public place or venue.
In either scenario, a disorderly conduct charge can be issued under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2. This is known as a petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey which is the lowest level criminal offense that exists under New Jersey Law. However, that doesn’t mean that it is not a serious charge and a disorderly conduct conviction can have serious consequences including the following penalties:
- Up to a $500 fine
- Up to thirty (30) days in the Morris County Jail
- A permanent criminal charge on your record
As you can see, even though it is a minor criminal offense in NJ, it can have serious long lasting implications for you including a permanent record. The New Jersey statute which governs disorderly conduct offenses in New Jersey is N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2, which provides, in pertinent part:
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
(1) Engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior; or
(2) Creates a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.
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.
Many of the disorderly conduct charges we see revolve around alcohol related incidents that occur on the “green” in the downtown Morristown area. Our lawyers have handled disorderly conduct charges with security personnel (bouncers) and police officers involving patrons from Iron Bar, the Grasshopper, the Famished Frog, and from the Morristown St. Patrick’s day parade.
Improper Behavior under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(a)
A disorderly conduct charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(a) involves improper behavior and can includes fights, arguments, threats, or any other tumultuous behavior. Typically, this is the most common disorderly conduct charge. A bouncer or security officers asks an intoxicated patron to exit the establishment and the patron fails to comply, fights with the bouncer, etc. Then the police are called to remove the patron from the premises and usually a disorderly conduct charge follows.
Offensive Language under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(b)
A disorderly conduct charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(b) involves loud and offensive language which is done in a public place. Again, this usually involves an intoxicated defendant screaming at others, law enforcement, etc. and using profanity and the like.
Now, once the charge has been filed and you appear in court, a number of things can happen. First, if the witnesses (bouncers) do not appear to testify with regard to the incident or evidence, the case can be dismissed for lack of prosecution. However, if the police officers witnesses the improper behavior, then they can testify to it and they always appear in court. A second option is to negotiate a plea agreement with the Morristown municipal prosecutor. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, the prosecutor may be willing to downgrade (amend) the disorderly conduct criminal charge to a local ordinance (also known as a municipal ordinance) violation. This is a violation of local law and results in a fine and no criminal record. If you have no criminal history, no officers were injured in the incident, and if you agree to undergo some alcohol counseling these types of circumstances will encourage the prosecutor to give you a break and downgrade the charge so you avoid a permanent record.
Last, If you have no criminal history and never used a diversionary program before, you are eligible for a conditional dismissal. You must plead guilty to the charge, they would then suspend the charge for one (1) year and place you on probation. If you complete probation successfully then the charge is dismissed. You can only use this program once in your life.
Can I expunge this disorderly conduct offense from my record?
Finally, what about my record? If you were charged with disorderly conduct then you were arrested for it (and fingerprinted and processed). This means that there is a record of that. If the charge gets dismissed completely, you can expunge the arrest record right away. If the charge is downgraded to a municipal ordinance violation, you have to wait two (2) years and then you can expunge the arrest record. If you are admitted into the conditional dismissal program and the charge is dismissed at the end of your probation, it is a six (6) month waiting period before you can expunge the arrest record.
For more information on disorderly conduct charges in New Jersey, contact the Tormey Law Firm at 908-336-5008.