What is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct, also called “disturbing the peace,” is a broad crime that covers a wide range of disruptive, lewd, or violent behavior. These acts can harass or anger other people, or incite unlawful behavior.
Some examples of disorderly conduct in NJ include:
- Engaging in violent behavior
- Smoking in public
- Creating any dangerous or hazardous condition without a valid reason
- Using loud, offensive language in public
- Blocking a sidewalk, road, or highway
- Loitering for the purpose of selling or buying drugs
- Public urination
- Damaging or defacing public monuments or property
- Interfering with the use or operation of public transportation in any way
It is a crime in New Jersey to falsely report an emergency such as a fire, explosion, or crime. This can include creating a panic, such as yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded place, or calling 911 with a false report. The penalties for this are more severe if a fake bomb is placed anywhere, or if anyone is harmed as a result of the false alarm.
Disorderly Conduct and Protesting
A common question is whether protesting counts as disorderly conduct. While protesting peacefully is a right guaranteed by the US Constitution, violent or disruptive protesting is not. This varies depending on the circumstances, but can sometimes include:
- Interrupting a public rally, city council meeting, religious ceremony, or memorial service.
- Blocking pedestrian or vehicle traffic.
- Refusing to obey a police officer’s order to disperse.
- Rioting, which is defined in New Jersey as engaging in disorderly conduct with four or more other people in order to commit a crime, prevent an official action, or using a weapon.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in New Jersey
Disorderly conduct is a wide-ranging offense that covers many different acts, so the punishment can vary widely depending on the circumstances. Depending on the action and severity, disorderly conduct is typically charged as:
- A petty disorderly persons offense, punishable by fines of up to $500 and 30 days in jail.
- A disorderly persons offense, punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and 6 months in jail.
or, in some more extreme cases:
- A fourth degree crime, punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison.
- A third degree crime, punishable by fines of up to $15,000 and 3-5 years in prison.
- A second degree crime, punishable by fines of up to $150,000 and 5-10 years in prison.
If you are charged with disorderly conduct in New Jersey, the penalties can be severe. It is important to contact an experienced NJ criminal defense lawyer to understand your rights and options, and make sure the case against you is valid. Contact Schneider Freiberger today to discuss your case.