Most individuals charged with Disorderly Conduct pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2 do not realize the seriousness of the charge. Often times, these individuals appear in municipal court and simply plead guilty to the charge without speaking to a lawyer. A wide range of circumstances can lead to a disorderly conduct charge: fights, arguments, offensive language, or some other improper behavior. A disorderly conduct charge is a criminal offense, similar to a misdemeanor, which leads to a permanent record if you are found guilty or plead guilty. The penalties under New Jersey law for individuals convicted of disorderly conduct include a jail sentence of up to six months and a monetary fine of up to $1,000.00. Any conviction also carries mandatory assessments of $50 for the Victims of Crime Compensation Board (VCCB), $75 for the Safe Neighborhood Services Fund, and $33 in court costs.
Often times, an attorney can negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor for these charges, either getting the charges dismissed altogether or amending them down to municipal or borough ordinance violations. Pleading guilty to an ordinance violation means that the defendant pleads guilty to a local ordinance rather than the “2C” criminal offense and avoids a permanent criminal charge on his or her record. The municipal ordinance results in a fine and the case is resolved. This can have a significant impact on a defendant’s life as they avoid a permanent criminal record, which can prevent these individuals from obtaining employment, among other things.
If you are charged with disorderly conduct in New Jersey, speak to a lawyer or at the very minimum meet with the prosecutor on your court date to determine if a plea agreement can be reached amending the criminal charge to a municipal ordinance.