New Jersey Statute N.J.S. 2C:14-4 governs lewdness which provides in pertinent part:
§ 2C:14-4. Lewdness
a. A person commits a disorderly persons offense if he does any flagrantly lewd and offensive act which he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other non-consenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.
b. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if:
(1) He exposes his intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person under circumstances where the actor knows or reasonably expects he is likely to be observed by a child who is less than 13 years of age where the actor is at least four years older than the child.
(2) He exposes his intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person under circumstances where the actor knows or reasonably expects he is likely to be observed by a person who because of mental disease or defect is unable to understand the sexual nature of the actor’s conduct.
As the above statute details, lewdness can be a disorderly persons offense or a fourth degree crime depending on the circumstances of the alleged act. If graded as a disorderly persons offense (under subsection (b) of the statute) then the case will proceed to the local Municipal Court where the alleged offense occurred. For example, if the incident occurred in Parsippany, New Jersey, the case will be handled in the Parsippany Municipal Court.
However, a fourth degree offense (under subsection (a) of the statute) on the other hand, will be an indictable criminal charge and can only be resolved at the Superior Court in the County in which the alleged crime occurred. For example, a 4th degree lewdness charge in Parsippany, New Jersey would be handled at the Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, New Jersey. Not only will the case be handled outside of the area of where the offense occurred but it will also require a maximum of eighteen (18) months in prison if convicted.
In New Jersey, even something as slight as public urination can be considered and charged as a fourth degree lewdness offense.
If you or a loved one has been charged with lewdness in New Jersey, it is critically important to determine whether you are charged under subsection (a) or (b) as the nature and consequences of the penalties are very different.