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
  • Harassment
  • 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.

  • sal watera

    What was the max term in jail for resisting arrest in municipal
    Court in nj in 1984? Can’t find any answeres anywhere, even library.
    I know now its up to six months, and it changed in 1987.

  • I wish I could help you Sal. I’m not sure. I was born in 1982 so that was a little before my time, haha. Good luck.

  • Kathy A

    What if your convicted on 4 counts of disorderly persons. Could they charge you 4 separate fines of $1000.00? How do they do it?

  • Theoretically, they could but that would never happen in reality.

  • Mike c

    I got arrested for less than 10gs of marijuana and I only have a curfew violation from when I was 16 what is most likely going to happen

  • If you are an adult now (over 18), which it sounds like you are, you are eligible for the conditional discharge program if you haven’t used it before. This will put you on probation and if you complete it successfully then the charges will be dismissed. You can only use this program once in your life.

  • Mike c

    Thanks and how long will probation last do you think

  • It’s up to the judge.

  • erik

    I got a petty disorderly persons offense in belmar. No prior record. What would you say I’m facing and should I get a lawyer? People reassure me I’m going to be ok but I’m still nervous

  • You are facing a permanent criminal charge on your record. You should definitely get an attorney who can make sure that you preserve your clean record.

  • Diane h

    I received a ticket for having fireworks that went off in front of my house. I never sold, bought or used them. However a friend at my house set them off for the 4th of July. I have to go to court since it is my house. Should I plead quilty?

  • You should go to court and speak to the prosecutor. Confirm that this is just a local ordinance violation and it will result in a fine and no criminal record. Hopefully he or she will give you the minimum fine as well. Good luck.

  • Sharon

    i was arrested and fired via an ex employer which prosecuted me. I am applying for work & the employer is giving a background check. The case is still pending and no decision has been made. I have a pretrial conference upcoming but how do I answer the question on the employers background check? Is it considered an open case.

  • Keera

    I have two pending disorderly persons offenses are they indictable? They are in superior court will they be downgraded?

  • Rich

    My wife was charged with under 50g of weed though it was in her car she took responsibility.my question is this.age has no prior record of any kind, can she ask for this to be reduced and expunged without a lawyer? Or will the courts only listen to one? And are you or your law firm doing anything to convince nj that there pot laws are ridiculous? Lol thank you

  • She can apply for a conditional discharge. Her charges will be suspended for 6 months – 1 year and then dismissed. She is eligible to expunge the arrest six months after she successfully completes the CD program. Marijuana is now legal for medicinal purposes only in New Jersey so she can see a doctor if she needs it for her health.

  • No, they are not indictable. They should be sent back to the Municipal Court. They may be in the Superior Court because you have a co-defendant who is facing an indictable (felony) level charge.

  • Yes, it is an open case. You have to answer that you have been arrested but have not been convicted of a crime (yet).


    i got a ticket for knowingly possessing drug paraphernalia in my car after the cop searched it, honestly i didnt know it was in the car, the officer found it in the crevice of a seat according to him, and it was only one little one hitter…with no marijuana in it, how do you think this case would turn out, do i need a lawyer or could a public defender get the job done???
    im in illinois btw