Is Disorderly Persons and Disorderly Conduct the Same Thing?

Disorderly Conduct and Disorderly Persons Offense in New Jersey: Understanding the Difference

Disorderly charge in Garfield NJ local attorneysCompared to the rest of the United States, New Jersey has somewhat unique names for the crimes committed in this state. Other states refer to serious crimes as “felonies,” and less serious offenses as “misdemeanors.” New Jersey uses the terms “indictable crime” for serious charges, and “disorderly persons offense” for a lesser offense.

Within the category of disorderly persons offenses, there are two levels: typical disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. Technically, any charge that amounts to a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey is not referred to as a “crime.” It is simply called an “offense.” This concept is broader than a disorderly conduct violation. If you are have been charged with disorderly conduct or a disorderly persons offense, it is vital to understand the distinction between these concepts and what it means for your specific case. Our criminal defense lawyers with local offices in Hackensack defend clients throughout Bergen County facing both criminal charges for improper conduct and disorderly persons offenses such as marijuana possession less than 50 grams and simple assault. To discuss your case with a lawyer who can help free of charge, call (201)-330-4979 today or contact us online.

Defining Disorderly Persons Offenses in Garfield NJ

A disorderly persons offense falls below any indictable crime (first, second, third, and fourth degree crimes are considered indictable). Disorderly persons offenses have a maximum six-month jail sentence, as opposed to a state prison sentence which applies to a felony. The maximum fine is $1,000 for disorderly persons charges, compared with thousands of dollars for indictable offenses.

Examples of disorderly persons offenses include things like simple assault, some theft offenses, such as shoplifting under $200, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Even lesser offenses are referred to as “petty disorderly persons offenses.” The fine for this type of charge is $500. Although jail time of up to 90 days is possible, it often is not required. Harassment is a very common petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey.  Although these lower level charges are considered “offenses,” and not crimes, they will still appear on your criminal record and can present a problem when someone runs a background check.

Facing Charges for NJ Disorderly Conduct Violation in Teaneck

Disorderly conduct is often referred to as “disturbing the peace,” or “breaching the peace.” The concept usually involves things like fighting, loud yelling, or generally being upset, angry, or annoying in public. Sometimes this type of behavior is reported by people nearby, but officers may also witness the conduct.
What constitutes disorderly conduct under New Jersey law is somewhat open to interpretation by the person who is observing it. What one person views as a lively discussion at a sports game can turn into a disorderly conduct charge if you are disturbing the wrong person. Most disorderly conduct charges will fall under the category of “petty disorderly persons offenses.” While jail time is rare, you can be sentenced for up to 30 days and be left with charges on your record. The judge may also impose more unique requirements, such as having to attend anger management classes or do community service.

Sometimes, disorderly conduct charges will be issued with companion charges for underage drinking or resisting arrest. Public intoxication is commonly associated with disorderly conduct, but being drunk in public, in and of itself, is not a crime in New Jersey.

Given a Disorderly Charge in Lodi? You Can Fight the Case with Help from an Experienced Attorney

Just because you have been given a disorderly conduct charge or another disorderly persons offense doesn’t mean you need to plead guilty and move on. You may be able to decrease the penalties or further reduce or eliminate the charges with the help of a knowledgeable Bergen County criminal defense attorney at our firm. We defend clients facing these charges every week in local municipal courts in Garfield, Teaneck, Lodi, Mahwah, Maywood, Fairlawn, Hackensack, and surrounding areas. Call (201)-330-4979 to get your free consultation today.


If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.