How to Beat a Disorderly Conduct Charge in New Jersey
Disorderly conduct is one of those charges that prosecutors love to bring when people make a lot of noise or are rowdy. Though it might seem like a “minor” charge, a conviction for disorderly conduct can result in fines and up to six months in jail.
Fortunately, someone facing a criminal charge has many possible defenses to raise. Our criminal defense attorney looks at a few.
Request a Dismissal if One Year Has Passed
There is a one-year statute of limitations that applies to disorderly conduct charges. If the prosecutor waits more than a year to charge you, then you can ask the judge for dismissal.
Argue Your Conduct Isn’t Covered by the Statute
The statue is found at N.J. Stat. § 2C:33-2. It identifies disorderly conduct as offensive language or improper behavior. You can argue that your conduct falls outside the scope of the law, which means you can’t be prosecuted.
For example, to get a conviction for offensive language, the prosecutor must show that you used unreasonably loud and abusive/coarse language in public with the purpose of offending someone listening. If you only used loud and offensive language in your home—and no one outside heard you—then you haven’t broken the law.
Argue Mistaken Identity
The police might have arrested you for a fight when you were actually just a bystander. This is more common than you might think. Many fights or arguments happen at night when it’s harder to see. A witness might have mistakenly identified you as a participant. If you can present evidence you weren’t involved in the incident, you can defeat a disorderly conduct charge.
Claim Self Defense
If someone attacks you in public, you can use reasonable force to defend yourself. You shouldn’t be picked up or charged with fighting since you didn’t initiate the fight. Of course, you can’t escalate things and claim self-defense. If someone slaps your face, you can’t pull out a gun and shoot them or throw them on the ground and stomp them.
Sow Reasonable Doubt about Your Motives
Like other crimes, disorderly conduct requires that a defendant acted with a certain motive or mindset. For example, if you are arrested for using loud and coarse language, the prosecutor must show you did so with the purpose of offending listeners or with reckless disregard that you might. The legal term for mindset is mens rea, and here the mens rea requirement is either “purpose” or “recklessness.”
However, you might not have known anyone was nearby, so you didn’t use offensive language with the purpose of offending them. You might also have been in an isolated part of town when you started shouting, so it wasn’t reckless if you had no reason to assume people were listening.
Raise a First Amendment Defense
Disorderly conduct statutes are in tension with the First Amendment, which prevents the government from passing laws limiting free speech. Of course, this doesn’t mean all speech is allowed. However, the line between free speech and criminal speech is difficult to identify. Your attorney might defend that your speech—though loud and rude—is protected by free expression.
Our Law Firm Defense against Disorderly Conduct Charges
Any criminal conviction is an inconvenience that has downstream consequences you should try to avoid. Contact The Law Offices of Anthony Carbone today to learn more in a free consultation.