I represented a client yesterday in Morristown Municipal Court who was charged with disorderly conduct in violation of N.J.S. 2C:33-2. In New Jersey, a criminal charge for disorderly conduct is governed by N.J.S. 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.
My client is a young man with no prior criminal record. If he was convicted of disorderly conduct under the criminal code, he would have this petty disorderly persons offense on his record. As a result, this offense would show up on his record if a background check was done. This record can only be expunged after five (5) years.
I was able to negotiate a downgrade of the criminal offense to a municipal ordinance violation. This is a violation of local law which is just a ticket and a fine. This ordinance violation does not result in a criminal record and should not show up on a background check. The only thing that will show up is the original arrest for disorderly conduct which is expungable after two (2) years from the date of the plea to the ordinance violation. This downgrade of the charges was crucial for my client as he was able to preserve his clean record.