I’ve written articles about the difference between New Jersey and Pennsylvania laws and how each state categorizes crimes and offenses differently. Pennsylvania classifies minor criminal offenses as summary offenses and in ungraded misdemeanor crimes. New Jersey, however, classifies serious offenses as “crimes” and minor offenses and disorderly and petty disorderly persons offenses. In New Jersey, “crimes” are indictable offenses which are heard in its Superior Court. Petty disorderly and disorderly person offenses are heard in Municipal Court.
Examples of indictable offenses are the following:
- Possession with the intent to manufacture, sell or distribute drugs (2C: 35-5)
- Some forms of drug possession (2C: 35-10)
- Aggravated assault (2C: 12-1(b))
- Some thefts
- Most illegal Firearms and gun offense (Graves Act)
The most common disorderly and petty disorderly person offenses are as follows:
- Shoplifting (under $200; 2C: 20-11)
- Disorderly Conduct
- Failure to Disperse
- Simple assaults (2C: 12-1)
- Theft/theft of services (under $200; 2C: 20-8)
- Obstruction of justice
- Some resisting arrest charges
- Drug possession (2C: 35-10)
What is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct (2C: 33-2) is any type of improper behavior or offensive language which causes a disturbance; it is a petty disorderly person offense. The maximum punishment for petty disorderly persons offenses is 30 days of incarceration and a $500 fine; the maximum punishment for disorderly persons is 6 months of county incarceration and a $1000 fine.
While disorderly offenses are far less serious than indictable crimes, they are nevertheless criminal offenses. If you’re charged and convicted of a disorderly person’s offense you will have a criminal record in New Jersey. You can obtain an expungement 5 years after conviction (in some cases 3 years) but it will be on your record for that period.
Municipal Ordinance Violation vs. Disorderly Person Offense
If you’re charged with a disorderly person’s offense your criminal defense lawyer may want to consider resolving it through a Municipal Ordinance violation. A municipal ordinance violation is a non-criminal disposition of your case which will not result in any criminal record. While it is extremely unlikely that you will serve any jail time it is still a possibility in some cases.
Examples of some cases which we have successfully had criminal charges downgraded to municipal ordinance violations are:
- Assault charges downgraded to ordinances
- Simple marijuana possession downgraded to township ordinances
- 4th degree fake ID downgraded to township ordinances for a University Student
Municipal ordinance violations are also known as borough ordinance violations or town code violations. These violations are similar to getting a ticket for loud music coming from your house or having a party with too many people. Its important to keep in mind that all ordinances are not the same, and some can include jail time and even a suspension of a driver’s license. Please discuss any disposition with your attorney prior to entering into a plea agreement with a municipal prosecutor.
If you are charged with disorderly conduct especially during this COVID shutdown, your criminal defense lawyer should explore a disposition through a Municipal Ordinance if there isn’t a strong defense to the charge.
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