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Fundamentals of Petty Disorderly Persons Charges in NJ

April 13, 2024

Criminal Defense Attorneys Handling Petty Disorderly Persons Offense Charges in Mount Holly and Southern New Jersey

Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses Burlington County NJ

Though the name includes the word “petty,” which means insignificant or minor, a petty disorderly persons offense is anything but negligible. You may think the offense is minimal and nothing to worry about, but you may not realize the serious consequences of a petty disorderly persons offense conviction on your record in New Jersey. An expensive fine and criminal record can throw roadblocks on your life path. Thus, it is smart to obtain knowledgeable legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney if you have been summoned to municipal court for a petty disorderly persons offense. Our criminal defense team at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay seeks dismissals and reductions of petty DP charges in Mount Laurel, Pemberton, Riverside, Lumberton, Evesham Township, Mount Holly, Burlington City, and other towns in the Burlington County area. Contact us for a free consultation online or by calling 609-850-8284 today.

New Jersey Petty Disorderly Persons Offense Charges: The Basics

A petty disorderly persons offense is the least penalized of crimes and offenses under NJ criminal law. It covers common unruly behaviors that cause annoyance and some danger to the public, like disorderly conduct and harassment, though not as much as the categories of disorderly persons offenses or indictable crimes, which are broader in scope and harsher in consequences.

Categorization of a Petty Disorderly Persons Charge under NJ Law

Technically, a petty disorderly persons offense is not a “crime,” like an indictable offense, but it is a criminal offense nonetheless. In the hierarchy of crimes and offenses in New Jersey, a petty disorderly persons charge is the least serious. The most serious are indictable crimes, with potential sentences of 18 months to life in state prison for first to fourth degree crimes. Disorderly persons offenses carry penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. The penalties for a petty disorderly persons offense are less than those for all of them.

Petty Disorderly Persons Charge: The Equivalent of a Misdemeanor

The offense is equivalent to a misdemeanor in other states, which is punishable by less than a year in jail or prison and tried by a judge in municipal court. An indictable crime is more like what other states call a felony, since a conviction leads to longer than a year in jail or prison after the indictment by a grand jury and a jury trial.

Potential Penalties if Convicted of a Petty Disorderly Persons Charge in New Jersey

A petty disorderly persons offense conviction may result in up to 30 days in jail or probation and a fine of $500.00. Additionally, all convictions for crimes and offenses become part of your criminal record. Potential employers, landlords, professional licensing boards, and university administrators have access to your criminal record and may deny you employment, housing, licensing, or university entrance based on these past infractions. A not-guilty verdict is especially important to maintain your clean record if it is your first offense. Otherwise, you risk losing employment, housing, and educational opportunities due to a conviction on your record.

Examples of Common Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses in NJ

A familiar petty disorderly persons offense is disorderly conduct, which consists of improper behavior and offensive language. N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(a) defines improper behavior as fighting, threatening, or other raucous behavior or needlessly and senselessly creating a physical danger to others. N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2(b) defines offensive language as loud, offensive, coarse, or abusive language meant to offend others in a public place. Harassment is another petty disorderly persons offense, but it is not directed at the public. Someone guilty of harassment targets another individual. There are many different behaviors that may be considered harassment, which you can learn about by visiting our harassment page.

What Petty Disorderly Persons Offense Behavior is Considered Domestic Violence in NJ?

In domestic violence scenarios, harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense that is also considered grounds for a restraining order. It can include harassment by an intimate partner, family member, or other close relation, former spouse, or person who resides in the same household. A common example during break-ups involves constant communications at all hours, such as ten texts or calls a day pleading for forgiveness and reunification or angry, bullying messages with threats of harm. Predicate acts under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act include assault and harassment, among other harmful acts. In some cases, a disorderly conduct charge is elevated to simple assault and becomes grounds to file a restraining order.

Diversionary Program Options for Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses in NJ Municipal Court

If you have no criminal history, you may be eligible for a municipal court diversionary program, called Conditional Dismissal, which is for first-time offenders charged with certain disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses. At the completion of the year-long program, a judge sets aside your guilty plea or conviction and the court dismisses the charges. Diversionary alternatives are also available to juvenile offenders who commit petty disorderly persons offenses, such as a Deferred Disposition. This is a probationary option that defers charges so that a juvenile can complete a probation period, after which their record can be wiped clean.

Can you Get a Petty Disorderly Persons Case Expunged in New Jersey?

Provided that you pay all fines and fees and wait until you are eligible, typically five years for convictions but sometimes four years for early pathway expungements, you can expunge up to five petty disorderly persons offenses. If you completed the conditional dismissal program for a PDP offense, then you only have to wait 6 months to expunge the entirety of the case from your record.

Do You Get a Jury Trial for a Petty Disorderly Persons Offense in NJ?

No. Municipal courts hear petty disorderly persons offense cases and a judge decides guilt or innocence. You do not get a jury trial in municipal court.

Charged with a Petty Disorderly Persons Offense in Burlington County NJ?

With decades of combined experience, the lawyers at Proetta Oliver & Fay may help keep you out of jail or obtain a dismissal in your case involving petty disorderly persons charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are accustomed to dealing with aggressive and unrelenting prosecutors, but you may not be. We can prevent a municipal prosecutor from taking advantage of your ignorance of the law and legal procedures in municipal court, which could lead to a conviction.

Ask a criminal defense lawyer at our Burlington County law firm what to expect when you are charged with a petty disorderly persons offense and how we can help with putting up the best defense. Knowledge reduces the stress of not knowing what comes next and having a lawyer who handles only criminal law on your side can go a long way toward getting the most desirable result in your case. We serve clients with criminal defense needs in Burlington Township, Florence, Delran, Bordentown, Willingboro, Westampton, and everywhere in between. Contact 609-850-8284 for immediate assistance.

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Burlington Office

525 Highway 73,
Suite 104, Marlton,
New Jersey 08053
Phone: 609-850-8284
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Hamilton Office

100 Horizon Center
Boulevard, Hamilton,
New Jersey, 08691
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Point Pleasant Office

3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
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Middletown Office

180 Kings Highway,
Middletown Township,
New Jersey 07748
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