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What it Means to be Charged with a Disorderly Persons Offense in New Jersey

Disorderly Persons Offenses are Serious Criminal Charges in NJ

In New Jersey, criminal offenses are categorized into indictable crimes, municipal disorderly persons offenses, and petty disorderly persons offenses. It is important to keep in mind that a disorderly persons offense is not a crime itself, but rather a category of underlying crimes. For instance, it is very common to confuse a disorderly persons offense with the crime of disorderly conduct. These are two entirely different things. You can think of disorderly persons offenses as a broad category, encompassing crimes such as possession of marijuana under 50 grams and simple assault. If you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, our experienced criminal defense attorneys will explain what this means for you. 

Court for a Disorderly Persons Offense

Technically, because a disorderly persons offense is not an indictable crime, there is no right to indictment by a grand jury and no right to a trial by jury. However, if you are convicted of an offense that is graded as a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, that conviction will still give rise to a criminal record and you may be asked to disclose this on housing and employment applications in the future. Disorderly persons offenses are comparable to misdemeanors in other states.

Hearings for disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly offenses are conducted in municipal court associated with the town where the offense occurred, rather than in Superior Court in the county. Superior Court is reserved for indictable criminal offenses, which are comparable to felonies in other states. Even though you are not entitled to indictment by a grand jury or a trial by jury for a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, it is important to know that you do have the right to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer. This is highly advisable considering the penalties you face, which we will outline in greater detail below. 

Disorderly Persons Offense vs. Petty Disorderly Persons Offense

There is a difference between a “disorderly persons offense” and a “petty disorderly persons offense” in New Jersey. Examples of crimes categorized as disorderly persons offenses include possession of drug paraphernalia, simple assault, marijuana possession of less than 50 grams, shoplifting (retail value of less than $200), and criminal mischief crimes. The penalties for a disorderly persons offense include up to 6 months of imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines. Restitution, community service, and probation may also be ordered.

A petty disorderly persons offense is considered less serious than a typical disorderly persons offense. While a petty disorderly persons offense is the lowest level of crime in New Jersey, it carries penalties and will still be reflected on your criminal record. Examples of petty disorderly persons offenses include simple assault (if the parties consented to fight), disorderly conduct, and harassment. The penalties for a petty disorderly persons offense include up to 30 days of imprisonment and up to $500 in fines, as well as restitution, community service, and probation.

Statute of Limitations

A charge for a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey must be filed with the court within 1 year of the date of offense or the charge is time barred by the statute of limitations and the individual accused cannot be convicted of the offense.

Expungement of a Disorderly Persons Offense Conviction

There are many advantages to seeking expungement of a disorderly persons offense conviction—that is, removing the conviction from your record—as having one on your criminal record can make it difficult to find employment, apply for scholarships, and be approved for bank loans. Individuals seeking expungement of a disorderly persons offense conviction in New Jersey must wait 5 years from the date the conviction is entered, probation is completed, or fines are paid, whichever is latest.

Jersey City NJ Disorderly Persons Offense Attorneys

If you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense in Hudson County, New Jersey, contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers right away and let us help you defend yourself against these charges. If you have already been convicted of a disorderly persons offense, it may be possible to have the record of your conviction expunged. The attorneys at Proetta & Oliver are very experienced in handling disorderly persons cases and can help advise you on the best way to handle your situation. We defend clients against disorderly persons charges in Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, Secaucus, Weehawken, Bayonne, and throughout Hudson County and New Jersey. To discuss your specific situation and receive a free consultation, call (201) 793-8018 anytime.