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5 Most Common Disorderly Persons Offenses in NJ

If you are a fan of police or legal procedural shows, you might be shocked by the New Jersey legal system’s lack of familiar criminal jargon. The state of New Jersey does not have “felony” or “misdemeanor” charges. Rather, it incorporates the term Common Disorderly Persons Offenses as a substitute for criminal misdemeanors. These are further broken down into two sub-categories: regular Common Disorderly Persons Offenses and Common Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses.

If you are a New Jersey citizen, you need to know what these disorderly persons offenses are – or at least the most common, popular ones. What do you, as a citizen of the state, need to know about these?

Marijuana Possession

New Jersey State Law has yet to legalize marijuana. Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana can result in a Common Disorderly Persons Offense. According to state law, “It is unlawful for any person, knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actually or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog, unless the substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order form from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by P.L.1970, c.226 (C.24:21-1 et seq.).”

The law emphasizes the illegality of possessing marijuana in public or within a thousand feet of a public building like a school. If you have more than 50 grams or if this is a fourth offense or later, you might be charged with up to $25,000.

Simple Assault

The difference between simple assault and violent assault can be the difference between years in prison or a far milder $1,000 fine in the state of New Jersey. As defined legally, simple assault occurs when a person hurt someone else willingly or recklessly, negligently causes harm to another person with a deadly weapon, or menaces someone by putting them in fear of being seriously hurt. Fights or scuffles, where both individuals enter consensually is by contrast a petty offense.

This is opposed to aggravated assault, which involves the infliction of serious injuries, as further defined by the law. Simple assault often does not involve serious harm with a deadly weapon or hospitalization. These crimes are of a far more serious matter.

Theft or Shoplifting (Under $200)


Steal something small? You might be up for a Common Disorderly Persons Offense. Any theft involving the stolen property valued at under $200 counts as this. While this is not limited to simply shoplifting, it is most often applied to shoplifting due to the potential damages that could be incurred during a theft.

However, should the damage incurred during the theft exceed $500, the charges might be more severe for when the thief is brought into justice. This also does not count robbery, which is differentiated from burglary in that robbery often involves the physical injury of the target of theft.

Improper Behavior

Improper behavior sounds like a vague enough disorderly persons offense to inspire almost a negligent dismissal of it as a concept. However, it is a very real, very specific offense that those in the state of New Jersey should understand so they do not fall into its traps.

Improper behavior is defined as behavior designed to cause public inconvenience or offense, by either inspiring fear of harm or extreme irritation. This might include actions such as spreading hateful language in a public setting, deliberately harassing people in public, or, perhaps, even smashing plates with the attention of annoying those around you.

Offensive Language


Contrary to what many believe, not all speech is spared from legal consequences. While this qualifies as a common petty disorderly persons offense, it still counts explicitly as a very real offense with ramifications.

As defined, “A person is guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense if, in a public place, and with purpose to offend the sensibilities of a hearer or in reckless disregard of the probability of so doing, he addresses unreasonably loud and offensively coarse or abusive language, given the circumstances of the person present and the setting of the utterance, to any person present.”

This means language that is intended to cause emotional harm for any reason, be it targeted harassment, sexual harassment, or racial harassment, can be regarded as offensive language. While the penalty is not extreme, that does not mean there is no penalty.

Many victims of common disorderly persons offenses might also find themselves the victims of personal injury. In such a case as these, you are entitled to damage pay, even if they are small claims. That is where we come in. The attorneys at Scura, Wigfield, Heyer, Stevens & Cammarota LLP can help. Please call our offices to schedule a free consultation and hear your options.

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