Facing Your Disorderly Conduct Charges in Atlantic City
Atlantic City can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately, bad situations can develop very quickly. It’s not uncommon for people to find themselves charged with a disorderly conduct offense, even though they’re not really sure what happened. Or they may know exactly what happened, but wound up being charged because the police were trying to control a chaotic situation.
Whatever your situation may be, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney. While disorderly conduct charges are a lot less serious than other crimes, they can still carry serious penalties. The worst thing you can do is ignore them or assume that it will work itself out to your advantage. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help you face your charges and get a fair result. To schedule a free consultation, call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or visit us online to discuss your case and how we can help.
Disorderly Conduct Charges Explained
The phrase “disorderly conduct” is pretty vague, so it may be helpful to give it some consideration. Under New Jersey law, disorderly conduct offenses are broken into two main categories:
Improper behavior. Improper behavior is defined by NJ Law 2C:33-2(a) as any behavior that causes or recklessly creates a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, alarm, by engaging in the following:
- Fighting, threatening, or other violent or tumultuous behavior; or
- Creation of a hazardous or physically dangerous situation by acting in a way that serves no legitimate purpose.
Offensive language. NJ Law 2C:33-2(b) allows law enforcement to charge people with disorderly conduct any time they use “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language” with the intention to “offend the sensibilities” of whoever person may be present.
While the statute is helpful, what constitutes “disorderly conduct” remains fairly broad. Disorderly conduct charged as either improper behavior or offensive language covers a very broad range of actions. The following activities could easily lead to a disorderly conduct charge:
- Threatening someone with violence
- Ignoring instructions from law enforcement
- Being loud
- Using profanity
- Making derogatory comments or using racially-charged language
- Blocking streets, sidewalks, or other public rights-of-way
Many disorderly conduct charges are the result of a single, momentary lapse in judgment, or you were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Whichever situation applies to your case, it’s important to understand that simply pleading guilty probably isn’t your best option.
Where You Can Be Charged with Disorderly Conduct
Some people believe that they can only be charged with disorderly conduct when on public property such as the sidewalk or a city street. Unfortunately, this is not the case. New Jersey law is very broad, specifically including businesses, amusement parks, schools, apartment houses, and any other place that the public or a “substantial group” has access to. This means that you can be charged with disorderly conduct at many of the places you might enjoy when visiting or relaxing in Atlantic City, regardless of whether or not they are public property.
The Potential Penalties of a Disorderly Conduct Conviction
Disorderly conduct charges are amongst the least serious criminal charges you can face. That said, these charges do carry serious consequences if you are convicted:
- Up to 30 days in jail;
- A fine up to $500; and
- A criminal conviction on your permanent record.
$500 may not be a lot of money for many people, but it’s a significant amount of money. That said, any amount of time in jail is a huge problem for just about anyone. More importantly, the conviction will go on your permanent record. A conviction could result in embarrassment among your friends and family and even it make it difficult to get a job or rent an apartment.
Potential Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charges
Most disorderly conduct charges are based on someone’s subjective assessment of your behavior. They are charges that are easily made, but often hard to prove. In order to avoid conviction, however, you will need to carefully evaluate the facts and the law. For example, you could argue one of the following defenses:
Self-defense: You could argue that you were charged while you were acting in self-defense.
Provocation: You were provoked by another person to behave in a way that resulted in the disorderly conduct charge. Any reasonable person in the same situation would have reacted similarly.
You were exercising your First Amendment rights: This defense applies to instances where you were at an organized protest or you have been charged with using offensive language. Your charges may violate your freedom of speech or right to assembly.
Wrongly accused: Many disorderly conduct charges arise from chaotic, confusing situations. You were charged because the police thought you were the perpetrator, when in fact, you were an innocent bystander.
Insufficient evidence: Again, disorderly conduct charges often arise from situations where it’s unclear as to what happened. The police simply file the charges, and figure the facts will sort themselves out later. The reality is that disorderly conduct charges are often supported by very little evidence if any at all.
You need to understand that the prosecution just wants a fast conviction. They are not obligated to tell you that they may not be able to prove the charges or that there are other problems with their case. Instead, they will try to persuade you that you are obviously guilty. They may even try to convince you that if you cooperate, the judge will be more lenient.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to identify the appropriate defense and ensure that you get a fair result. In short, you will have someone on your side fighting for your best interests.
Wimmer Criminal Defense Law Can Help You Fight Your Atlantic City Disorderly Conduct Charges
Don’t let your time in Atlantic City be ruined by a simple mistake and over-aggressive prosecutors. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can provide you with experienced legal representation and an aggressive defense. If you’d like to discuss your case with her and how she can help, call us at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.