A “disorderly persons offense” in New Jersey is generally considered to be the equivalent of a misdemeanor in another state. While these cases are handled in municipal court and are not considered to be as serious as indictable crimes, they can still carry serious consequences if you are convicted and the conviction will appear on your criminal record. For this reason, you should take allegations of a disorderly persons offense as seriously as you would any other type of criminal charge and you should discuss your situation with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
There are two types of disorderly persons offenses in NJ — disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. While neither type of offense is considered a “criminal” matter, they may nonetheless be punishable with fines and time in jail. Of course, the more severe the disorderly persons offense is, the higher the probability of jail time.
Petty disorderly persons offenses are considered to be the least serious type of offense in the state of New Jersey. However, convictions of these petty offenses can still mean up to thirty days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Some common examples of acts that may be deemed petty disorderly persons offenses include disorderly conduct and harassment.
Disorderly persons offenses are considered more serious than petty offenses but they do not amount to the severity of a felony. These offenses may be punishable with up to six months in jail and/or fines of up to $1000. Some examples of acts deemed as disorderly persons offenses include:
- Simple assault
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana
If you are charged and convicted of a disorderly persons offense in the state of New Jersey, a court may take into consideration any prior convictions and potentially impose a harsher sentence. The conviction will also go on your permanent record. A conviction for even a disorderly persons offense may hurt you when you are looking for a job, applying for housing and financial aid, when applying to college, or even applying for a professional license.
Defenses Available for Disorderly Persons Offenses
Just like any type of criminal case, disorderly persons offenses each have their own possible legal defenses. Some examples include:
- The charges were brought outside the statute of limitations
- The action was justified, such as in self-defense
- Basic elements of the charge were not met
- Law enforcement violated your constitutional rights
Retaining an experienced attorney is always a wise decision for those facing disorderly persons offenses as a skilled attorney will be able to review both the charges and facts surrounding your case to identify any possible legal defenses that may apply. Our legal team will develop a defense strategy to help identify legal grounds for dismissal of the charges, negotiate potential plea options, or even to represent you at trial should your case reach that stage of the litigation process. In addition, a defense attorney may help an individual explore alternative sentencing or diversionary programs in lieu of jail time or other consequences. For example, a person charged with possession of marijuana may be able to participate in a drug court program to avoid a conviction on their record.
Skilled attorneys should be familiar not only with any and all legal defenses for your case but should also have a strong familiarity with their local criminal justice system and court procedures. Many individuals may believe that municipal courts are less formal or less strict than criminal courts may be. However, municipal prosecutors seek to obtain convictions just as aggressively as any other prosecutor and municipal judges take court procedures just as seriously as any other judge. For this reason, if you have been accused of a disorderly persons offense, you want an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with the municipal court system in New Jersey.
Contact an Experienced NJ Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as Possible
A skilled criminal defense lawyer can help you succeed in obtaining a favorable result in your disorderly persons case, whether through a plea agreement negotiated with the local prosecutor or at trial. Our experienced attorneys strive for the best possible outcome while ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the entire criminal process. We have helped to limit or eliminate the penalties faced by numerous clients accused of a variety of offenses. If you have been arrested, you should not delay in calling our office, at 973-732-1490, for a consultation for more information on how we can help you.