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Disorderly Persons Offenses, NJSA 2C:1-4


In the state of New Jersey, crimes are not categorized as felonies and misdemeanors, but rather as indictable crimes, disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses.  Disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses equate to misdemeanor charges in other states, because they are less serious in nature, and are punishable by less than one year in jail.

The vast majority of “criminal” cases heard in New Jersey each year are Disorderly Persons Offenses, and are charged under NJSA 2C:1-4.  These cases are not considered a crime; however, a disorderly persons conviction will still give you a criminal record.  Disorderly persons cases are handled in the Municipal Court in the town where the offense occurred.  A defendant is not entitled to a Grand Jury or a jury trial for a disorderly persons offense.

The severity of the offense will determine whether or not it is considered a petty disorderly persons offense or a regular disorderly persons offense.

Petty disorderly persons offenses include disorderly conduct and harassment.  For one of these offenses, you can serve up to 6 months in jail and face a fine of up to $500.

The more serious disorderly persons offenses include:

  • Property theft or criminal mischief: less than $200 in damages or loss (NJSA 2C :17-3);
  • Simple Assault; both parties were willingly fighting each other (NJSA 2C: 12-1);
  • Shop lifting of more than $2 but less than $200 (NJSA 2C: 20-11c(4));
  • Possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana (NJSA 2C 5-10(a)(4)).

A regular disorderly offense also carries a sentence of up to 6 months in jail, but the fine can go up to as much as $1,000.  Attached to these basic charges is the potential for community service, court costs, VCCB fines and a SNE fine.  Additionally, the court could impose probation and even suspend or revoke a defendant’s driver’s license for up to 2 years. Keep in mind that losing your license has nothing to do with whether or not your disorderly persons offense involved a vehicle.

Some long term consequences of having a disorderly persons conviction on your record include:

  • Immigration issues;
  • Loss of employment for state employees, stockbrokers, doctors, nurses, attorneys, and pharmacists.  Moreover, the latter could also lose their licenses to practice;
  • Receiving a more sever sentence if convicted of future disorderly persons offenses or indictable crimes.

The good news is, after waiting 5 years, you are eligible to have an expungement and the matter will be cleared from your record.

If you have been charged with a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney.  The Law Offices of James A. Abate, LLC, has handled hundreds of disorderly persons cases over the years, and have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the legal process.  An experienced lawyer may be able to get the charges against you dismissed, negotiate a downgrade so you are pleading guilty to a non-criminal offense, or get you into a program like the conditional discharge so that you can preserve your record.

Get your questions answered – call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (908) 210-9755