A disorderly conduct charge is designed to preserve the peace and harmony of a community. When large crowds gather in public places, are intoxicated, and create disturbances with loud obnoxious behaviors, municipalities resort to the charge of disorderly conduct after arresting individuals to preserve the peace.
A disorderly order charge covers a wide range of behaviors; it is defined in vague and general terms. Police officers have wide discretion when arresting someone based on this charge. When one is faced with a disorderly conduct, it is imperative to mount an appropriate defense.
Behaviors that cause others harm, annoyance, anger, and alarm can be categorized as disorderly. Often, a police officer can charge the same behavior as a nuisance or assault and battery, depending on the circumstances.
Other interchangeable charges with disorderly conduct include disturbance of the peace, public intoxication, and indecent exposure. Due to the general nature of the definition and the wide range of behaviors that fall under disorderly conduct, it is one of the most common charges that can be made.
What Classifies as Disorderly Conduct in New Jersey?
Disorderly conduct can encompass improper behaviors, offensive language, and a general breach of the peace. In New Jersey, disorderly conduct is defined as improper behaviors that lead to public inconvenience, annoyance, alarm, fighting, threatening or tumultuous behaviors.
Disorderly Conduct or Freedom of Expression?
A disorderly conduct charge can be brought forth when a person in a public space has purpose to offend the public or acts recklessly and has disregard for the pubic, which includes offensive or abusive language.
Often, there is a fine line between disorderly conduct and freedom of expression. One may be arrested for screaming obscenities and making lewd comments. However, the prosecutor has the high burden of showing that the utterances amount to disorderly conduct due to the constitutional protections awarded for freedom of expression.
There is often a fact-based analysis on whether the behavior constitutes inappropriate behavior or exercises freedom of speech. For instance, in order to show that the alleged behavior falls within the disorderly conduct charge, the prosecutor must show that the person intended to cause harm or had reckless disregard for causing such harm. Therefore, one cannot be charged with this cause of action if he or she did not realize that he or she was too loud, abusive, or offensive.
What About Self-Defense?
Sometimes, when someone gets involved in disorderly conduct involving a fight, he or she may have engaged in self-defense. It is necessary to gather evidence and testimony to show that the fighting was conducted without intent to harm but acted in self-defense.
What are the Penalties for Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor offense. A conviction of disorderly conduct most often results in fines. However, depending on the conduct, the fines can vary widely, ranging from $25 to $500.
Some offenses may involve jail time; however, jail time is usually short, ranging in days or weeks but may be as long as one year. Another sentence in response to the conviction may be a probation period of several months, community service, and restitution for damages.
What are Defenses Against Disorder Conduct?
One way to defend such a charge is by requesting the prosecutor or judge for a carry order. Pursuant to this carry order, a judge may allow the case to be carried forward by 60 to 90 days in order for the arrestee to obtain counseling. If the arrestee completes the required counseling and remains arrest-free during that period, the charge may be dismissed. Other ways a lawyer can help defend this charge is by showing that the necessary elements of the charge were not present or that the defendant acted in self-defense.
If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, do not wait, contact an attorney who is knowledgeable about criminal law and will evaluate the charge and the circumstances leading to the charge.
South Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers at Agre & St. John Defend Clients Accused of Disorderly Conduct
If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, one of our South Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Agre & St. John can help you with your case. For an initial consultation, complete our online form or call us at 856-428-7797. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.