Disorderly Conduct in Cranford NJ
July 28, 2021
Cranford NJ Disorderly Conduct Attorney
Downtown Cranford is a great place to spend a Saturday night with friends from out of town. You can show them around the charming shops, restaurants, and bars. And on your way back to their hotel, you can stop in at the hotel’s pub to watch a replay of the game or listen to music, laughing about good times. But if you venture out back onto the streets and get too carried away, remember that there are laws against rowdy behavior that disrupts others in public areas. While you may believe you and your group of friends are just out having a good time, others may perceive your behavior as outrageous and a threat to their safety or sensibilities. Disorderly conduct is a serious petty disorderly persons offense that can disrupt not only your night out, but your life.
What is Considered Disorderly Conduct in Cranford NJ
You can be arrested for, and charged with, disorderly conduct when you supposedly cause a public nuisance, like publicly fighting, yelling profanity or other offensive language, or creating a hazard for no legitimate reason. So, if you and your group started viciously wrestling one another on the public sidewalk, you might be perceived as endangering others walking along the sidewalk. A passerby could be accidentally hit by the struggling bodies erratically jerking left and right while people try to pass or walk into the street to avoid getting pushed or tripped. And if you and your friends angrily shout comments to the people trying to get you to take the ruckus elsewhere, you could likewise be committing prosecutable offensive behavior. Of course, what can be considered offensive or improper is a highly subjective matter, and the disorderly conduct statute N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2, is rather elusive when it comes to defining the acts that may be grounds for this charge.
Typical cases of disorderly conduct include fighting in public, barroom brawls, road rage, rioting, creating explosive noises, or being rowdy drunk in public. Or, it can be offensive language meant to provoke or abuse someone, like cursing out a police officer, breaking up a fight, or removing drunk people from the bar or street.
What the Prosecutor must Prove to Convict on N.J.S.A 2C:33-2 Charges in Cranford Municipal Court
To convict you, the Cranford Municipal Court prosecutor must prove that you intended to cause the public nuisance or alarm or that you behaved with recklessness so as to cause the public inconvenience or fear. They also must prove that you created the disturbance in a public place, defined as a place where people typically gather, like on or around the streets, public transportation, apartments, or schools. However, whether you intended to cause others alarm, recklessly did so, or did so in a public place may all be open to interpretation. And while a prosecutor may argue you were fighting in public, you may dispute the representation by producing witnesses that testify that you were horsing around, not fighting or intending to bother anyone.
Penalties for Cranford Disorderly Conduct Offenses
Nonetheless, if arrested for disorderly conduct, you can be charged with a petty disorderly persons offense that New Jersey punishes with up to 30 days in jail and a $500.00 fine. You may also be sentenced to community service or restitution payments for damages caused. And while each municipality may have its own ordinances addressing public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, a petty disorderly persons offense differs from a municipal ordinance violation in the punishment and impact. Municipal ordinances do not ordinarily punish by incarceration, but by fines. So, Cranford may have an ordinance against public roughhousing, rude behavior, and drunkenness, but the New Jersey codes categorize disorderly conduct as an offense punishable by jail and fines, in addition to a criminal record.
If you are convicted, not only do you possibly face spending a month in jail and a sizable fine, but also a conviction that shows up on a background check. Having an offense on your record may affect your future or current employment. Depending on the job, current and prospective employers may run background checks as a condition to continued or future employment. You may be passed up for a job with a disorderly conduct conviction in your history as you may appear irresponsible and volatile. Employers try to avoid employees who may cause problems or expose them to liability. In addition, you may not be able to get the conviction and arrest expunged from your record if you have too many disorderly persons offenses or crimes in your history. Racking up small offenses can limit your future options to clear your record and start anew.
Weigh Your Defense Options with a Disorderly Conduct Lawyer in Cranford, NJ
To safeguard your liberty and your options, you can hire an attorney who can dispute the facts the prosecutor presents. By casting doubt on the police and prosecutor’s interpretation of what occurred, your attorney can make the prosecutor’s burden of proving their case more difficult. Perhaps we can dispute the legality of your arrest or argue your First Amendment right to free speech. In some cases, our attorneys can counter the prosecutor’s portrayal of your language as abusive or provoking an extreme reaction in others by showing no one did anything in response to your words except getting offended. Causing offense does not necessarily rise to a breach of the public’s peace and does not trump your right to speak out in public. By exposing the weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case and defending your constitutional rights to free speech and fair treatment, an experienced defense lawyer can more persuasively argue for a dismissal of your case. That defense notwithstanding, we can also bargain for reducing your disorderly persons offense to a local ordinance violation, essentially a ticket. If our legal team is successful in dismissing or reducing the charges against you, we can also help you get your record cleared of the arrest or charges that initiated the case.
Another possibility for avoiding a conviction and blemished record is to seek a carry order. If the court and prosecutor agree that the best resolution would be for you to complete a course of counseling, they may delay or carry over the proceedings until you get that done, typically for two to three months. If you prove that you completed the counseling and stayed out of legal trouble during that time, you could get your case dismissed. There is a similar option through a court diversion program known as conditional dismissal, which can also lead to disorderly conduct charges being dropped. This may be an avenue to pursue if you have no prior criminal record.
Being well-acquainted with defenses to a disorderly conduct charge, the local municipal ordinances, and the Cranford Municipal Court, a Cranford NJ disorderly conduct defense attorney who can represent you in court can be your greatest asset. Otherwise, you take your chances that the prosecutor will convince the judge to sentence you in accordance with petty disorderly persons offense penalties, which can and should be avoided at all costs. Please contact our local office at (908) 838-0150 for further legal guidance and a free consultation.