If you or a loved one has been charged with a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, I’m sure you have a few questions. The most common are the following:
Am I going to jail?
If you have no prior record, in most cases the answer is no. On a disorderly persons offense, you are facing a maximum of six (6) months in the county jail. However, if you have no prior record, there is a presumption of non-incarceration. This means that, it is presumed you will not receive a jail sentence based on your lack of prior record. If you do have a prior record, on the other hand, you could very well be facing jail time. Either way, it is important that you fight these charges and avoid a criminal record.
Is a disorderly persons offense a criminal offense?
Yes. It’s like a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense, it will show up on your permanent record. This means that, if an employer or school runs a background check on you, this offense will show up on your record.
Where will this charge be handled?
In the local municipal court in the municipality in which you were charged. For example, if you are charged with disorderly conduct in Morristown, New Jersey, this charge will be handled in the Morristown Municipal Court.
Is it possible to expunge these charges if I am convicted?
Yes, it is a five (5) year waiting period and you can apply to have this charge expunged. However, if you have other things on your record you may not be eligible for an expungement.
What type of fine am I facing on a disorderly persons offense?
Typically, $1,000.00. On a petty disorderly persons offense, $500.00.
Is there any way to get out of these charges?
Yes. An experienced lawyer may be able to get the charges dismissed entirely, get you into a diversionary program like a conditional discharge so you can avoid a record, or negotiate a downgrade so you plead guilty to something non-criminal and preserve your record.
Some disorderly persons we typically handle include the following:
- Possession of Marijuana (under 50 grams)
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
- Simple Assault
- Disorderly Conduct
- Possession of a Fake ID
- Underage Possession of Alcohol
- Shoplifting (in an amount less than $200)
Disorderly Persons Offense vs. Municipal Ordinance Violation
One typical downgrade for a disorderly persons offense is an amendment to a municipal ordinance violation. This makes a criminal disorderly persons offense a non-criminal municipal ordinance violation. Let me give you an example. I often represent clients charged with disorderly conduct for alcohol related incidents in Morristown, Hoboken, Belmar, etc. where there is a significant bar scene. They are given a criminal complaint for disorderly conduct, a disorderly persons offense. If they are convicted of this charge, they will have a permanent criminal charge on their record (subject to expungement in some cases after five (5) years). I am often able to negotiate a downgrade of the disorderly conduct charge to a noise violation, a municipal ordinance violation. This results in a fine and no criminal record. It’s on the level of a littering ticket. It would be similar to having a party at your house and having too many people over and your neighbor’s call the police and the police write you a ticket for a noise violation. This is crucial for my clients who are able to pay a fine and avoid a criminal charge on their record.