When you are arrested for a crime in Philadelphia, there are two court appearances you will attend. The preliminary arraignment is held shortly after your arrest, and the formal arraignment is held after the preliminary hearing if you are charged with a felony offense and the preliminary hearing judge finds that the Commonwealth has made…
Many of the people who are charged with crimes didn’t set out to commit a crime – it may have been a momentary lapse in judgment, a misunderstanding, or a simple mistake. This is particularly the case with minor offenses, which make up the vast majority of cases in New Jersey’s criminal justice system. Unfortunately, even minor offenses can lead to serious trouble.
If you’ve been charged with a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, Wimmer Criminal Defense Law can help. Attorney Lauren Wimmer brings her knowledge and experience to every case she handles to help her clients get a fair outcome. Don’t let the prosecution decide your future – call us today at 215-712-1212 or complete our online contact form.
What is a Disorderly Persons Charge?
In New Jersey, minor offenses are charged as “disorderly offenses” charge – a term that is somewhat confusing. Most other states refer to these as “misdemeanors.” They are different from “indictable offenses” (New Jersey’s term for felonies) in two important ways:
- You do not need to first be indicted by a grand jury – law enforcement simply files the charges.
- You will be prosecuted in municipal court in front of a judge and without a jury.
Disorderly persons cases are very common and make up the vast majority of criminal cases in New Jersey. Nevertheless, if convicted, the penalties of a disorderly person charge can carry serious consequences.
The Punishment You Face if Convicted
Many people make the mistake of thinking that since they are charged with a minor offense, they don’t need to worry about their charge. They also sometimes think that they should just cooperate with prosecutors, or that it isn’t worth consulting with a criminal defense attorney. Unfortunately, they discover their mistake when it’s too late and the damage can’t be undone.
If convicted of a disorderly persons charge, you face the following consequences:
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Possible probation
- Various other fees and court costs
The severity of your sentence will vary according to your criminal history, the nature of the offense, and the circumstances surrounding your case. Regardless, any amount of time in jail can be a disastrous result for most people.
Common Disorderly Persons Offenses
Again, disorderly persons charges are very common and include a wider range of crimes than the name suggests. Here are some of the common disorderly persons charges that we help our clients face:
- Simple assault
- Possession of marijuana (50 grams or less)
- Shoplifting or theft of property worth less than $200
- Resisting arrest
- Writing bad checks
- Obstructing a police officer
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Public intoxication
Some of these offenses are considered more serious than the others, such as property theft, assault, shoplifting, and even possession of marijuana. In those cases, prosecutors are likely to aggressively pursue a conviction and harsh sentences.
The Consequences Extend Beyond Jail Time and Fines
It’s important to remember that your conviction will go on your permanent criminal record, which will be available to the public. As a result, you will have to face public stigma and embarrassment among your friends, family, and community.
Depending on your crime and what you do for a living, your conviction could make it difficult to keep your job or find new work. Your conviction is likely to appear on background checks, making it difficult to find a job. If you hold a professional license, it could result in disciplinary proceedings culminating in suspension or revocation of your license. A conviction for a disorderly persons offense could cause significant financial hardship for you and your family.
If you are not a citizen, your conviction could impact your immigration status. This could lead to tremendous hardship for your family.
Why You Need a Lawyer
It’s easy to forget that you are innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecution wants you to think that your conviction is a foregone conclusion. The prosecution isn’t obligated to tell you that their case may have weaknesses or that the evidence against you is questionable. If they offer a plea agreement, they aren’t obligated to offer a deal that is actually fair or the best possible outcome for you. The bottom line is that the prosecution serves the interests of law enforcement and does not have your best interests at heart.
Your lawyer is unequivocally on your side, working for the best possible outcome for you. They can demand that the prosecution dismiss the charges unless they produce evidence that proves you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They can negotiate a fair plea agreement and make sure that the prosecution does not take advantage of your lack of experience or legal expertise.
Finally, it’s important to remember that disorderly persons charges are tried in front of a judge, not a jury. In other words, you will be in front of a judge who may be jaded by the hundreds of cases that have gone through their courtroom. A lawyer may be able to persuade the judge that your case is deserving of their attention and you are entitled to a fair hearing.
How Wimmer Criminal Defense Can Help You
At Wimmer Criminal Defense, we know that this is your future at stake. As a result, we start with a very thorough case evaluation – we want to know everything about your case. We evaluate the facts, the evidence against you, and what witnesses will be testifying on behalf of the prosecution.
We then exhaustively research the law and any cases that may be helpful in getting you a favorable result. We look for cases similar to yours and analyze what arguments were successful and which ones the court found unpersuasive. We specifically focus on the court where your case will be heard and try to identify specific trends in that jurisdiction.
We then are able to develop the best possible defense strategy for your case. We prepare your case for trial from the very first meeting. We don’t negotiate a plea agreement unless we believe it is the best possible outcome for you, and only when we believe the offer is truly fair.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Just because your charges are for a “minor” offense, you can still face serious consequences. Don’t jeopardize your future by thinking that it’s not worth it to speak with an attorney – hiring an attorney can make the difference between going to jail and getting your charges dismissed. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge, skills, and experience to ensure that you get a fair result. If you’d like to learn more about how she can help you, call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or contact us online.