Recently, two men in New Jersey were allegedly charged for failing to wear protective face masks while in Wawa grocery stores in the state. While neither of these men were actually taken into custody, both will need to appear in a New Jersey Municipal Court once courts reopen whenever that happens! Much like Philadelphia, many counties in New Jersey such as Camden, Mercer, Burlington, Gloucester, Cumberland, Atlantic and Cape May have relaxed arrest procedures, but it is important to keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that people will not face consequences for their actions. Pennsylvania has implemented similar measures in grocery and convenience stores throughout the Commonwealth
These cases will become more common as residents who refuse to accept the temporary “new normal” attempt to enter grocery stores despite Governor Murphy’s order restricting access only to those who comply. In addition, the executive order requires stores to limit patrons to half of their maximum capacity. The face mask requirement, along with the long lines to even enter a store like Wegmans, or Costco, will likely increase frustration and lead to possible additional criminal charges.
While neither of these men will likely face felony criminal charges in the Garden State, both will likely face disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses based on their behavior. At the very least both men will be charged with improper behavior which is a petty disorderly offense under 2C: 33-2. A person is guilty of a petty disorderly crime if, with the purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm creates a hazardous condition with no legitimate purpose. Keep in mind that improper behavior can also include offensive language which is also graded as a petty disorderly offense.
New Jersey Disorderly Persons & Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses
In New Jersey, petty disorderly offenses and disorderly offenses are 2 different categories. Neither is an indictable crime and the maximum punishment for a petty disorderly offense is 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500; a disorderly person’s offense maximum punishment is 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.
In each of these cases these individuals failed to cooperate with police and will likely face resisting arrest charges under 2C: 29-2 which is a disorderly offense but can be graded an indictable crime depending upon the circumstances. Further, they could also face obstruction of justice charges or even terroristic threats because one of the incidents escalated to a physical altercation with police and Wawa staff.
Camden County Man Spits On Police – What type of criminal charges?
In another incident, a man in Camden County allegedly spat on 3 police officers and told them he had the corona virus following arrest for a domestic incident. This person could face potential aggravated assault charge and a terroristic threat charge under 2C: 12-3. In New Jersey a person is guilty of a terroristic threat if he threatens to commit any crime of violence or creates the risk of terror or inconvenience. While terroristic threats are usually graded as a crime of the 3rd degree it can be graded as a crime of the 2nd degree if it occurs during a national, state, or county emergency, like the current COVID shutdown.
Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault Charges in New Jersey
Assault in New Jersey under 2C: 12-1 can be graded as a simple assault if a person attempts to cause or knowingly causes bodily injury. Simple assault is a disorderly person’s offense unless it is committed during a fight entered into by mutual consent in which case it is a petty disorderly offense. Police officers are a protected class and a person who causes bodily injury or attempts to cause injury to a police officer commits a crime of the 3rd degree; other members of this protected class include firefighters, EMS, hospital workers, school teachers, and most state employees.
Social distancing is the new normal in New Jersey, at least for now, and it is very important that you comply with all executive orders. In most cases you will only face petty disorderly offenses but it will still require you to appear in Municipal Court and could lead to fines and maybe a possible jail sentence. If you’re charged it is important that the burden of proof is always on the state and never on the defendant. The burden of proof at any criminal proceeding is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
State of Emergency – Enhanced Penalties
Finally, because New Jersey, like most of the country, is in a state of emergency, there is a strong possibility that there is an enhancement associated with many criminal statutes. For more information keep reading this blog.
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