Difference Between Disorderly Conduct & Disorderly Persons Offense

Charged with Disorderly Conduct in New Jersey?

Being charged with a criminal offense can be overwhelming. The unknowns can be terrifying. That is why it is absolutely crucial to fully understand the nature of the charges and the potential penalties if find yourself in this unfortunate situation. One of the  more frequent misconceptions that we hear from potential clients is that they are being charged with “disorderly persons “.  In New Jersey, a disorderly persons offense is a degree of a crime and not a crime in and of itself. The crime that most are referring to when they state they are charged with a “disorderly persons” is disorderly conduct. As you will see below, disorderly conduct is a catchall charge in New Jersey, as such, it covers a wide array of potential conduct.

What is Disorderly Conduct in NJ?

The governing statute in New Jersey for disorderly conduct is N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2. Although this offense is referred to as New Jersey’s catchall charge its reach is not endless. Disorderly conduct is basically broken down into two different subsections: Improper Behavior and Offensive Language. Here is a breakdown of each subsection, including exactly what the prosecution needs to prove in order to obtain a conviction.

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2a: Improper Behavior:

  • In order to be convicted under this subsection, the prosecution will have to prove the following:
    • With purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or  recklessly creating a risk thereof the defendant:
      • Engaged in a fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;  or
      • Created a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2b: Offensive language:

  • In order to be convicted under this subsection, the prosecution will have to prove the following:
    • While in a public place, and with purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing so the defendant:
      • Engaged in unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language.

Disorderly conduct is considered a petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. For more information on the potential sentence for anyone convicted of disorderly conduct please see below.

What is a Disorderly Persons Offense in NJ?

As touched upon earlier, a disorderly persons offense is a degree of a crime. It is New Jersey’s version of a misdemeanor. There are two different levels of misdemeanors and they are as follows:  a disorderly persons offense and a petty disorderly persons offense. Here is a breakdown of the penalties if convicted of each.

Disorderly Persons Offense:

  • 6 Months in the County Jail
  • $1,000 Fine
  • Criminal Record

Petty Disorderly Persons Offense:

  • 30 Days in the County Jail
  • $500 Fine
  • Criminal Record

Anyone convicted of this offense will have a criminal record for at least three years. After three years the individual may be able to petition the Superior Court in the county where the incident occurred to expunge the record. For more information on expungements in New Jersey, please click the link.

Is Court Mandatory on a Disorderly Conduct Charge in NJ?

Anyone charged with disorderly conduct in New Jersey will be required to appear in court to answer the charges. The local municipal court in the municipality where the incident occurred will be the court who has jurisdiction over the charges. For example, anyone arrested for disorderly conduct at Bridgewater Commons will need to appear in the Bridgewater Municipal Court to litigate the charges.

Need a Lawyer for Disorderly Conduct Charge in Somerset County

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct in Somerset or Hunterdon County or elsewhere in New Jersey, we strongly urge that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss your options. As you can see from above, this is not the type of charge to take lightly. A conviction can lead to serious consequences. If you have unfortunately found yourself in this situation and would like to speak to one of the criminal defense attorneys at Keith Oliver Criminal Law about your options then please contact our office at 908-533-1064 or you can try contacting us online.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.