A Brief Overview of the New Jersey Criminal Code: What is a Disorderly Persons Offense?


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A Brief Overview of the New Jersey Criminal Code: What is a Disorderly Persons Offense?

By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.
There are six classes of offenses under the New Jersey Criminal Code: in increasing severity – petty disorderly persons offenses (“petty DP”), disorderly persons offenses (“DP”), fourth degree crimes, third degree crimes, second degree crimes, and first degree crimes. Petty DP and DP offenses are not crimes – when the term “crime” is used, this refers to offenses of the fourth degree or higher. When the term “offense” is used, however, not only are petty DP and DP offenses included, but all crimes as well. With some exceptions, motor vehicle offenses are specifically excluded from the meaning of “offense” and, therefore, are neither an “offense” nor a “crime” under New Jersey law.

Another important distinction between a lower-level offense and a crime is that a defendant accused of a petty DP or DP offense is not entitled to a trial by jury or an indictment by a Grand Jury. Although petty DP offenses and DP offenses are generally not punished as severely as an indictable offense, a conviction may still have serious repercussions – a variety of punishments are still possible for the offender including incarceration of up to six months and/or heavy fines. Furthermore, a conviction may result in loss of driving privileges, deportation, forfeiture of office, violation of probation, or the loss of the presumption of non-imprisonment for a subsequent conviction. Additionally, a petty DP or DP offender is usually required to pay court costs, an assessment to the Victims of Crime Compensation Office, and an assessment to the Safe Neighborhood Services Fund.

One potential advantage – for lack of a better word – of the distinction between a crime and a petty DP or DP offense, however, is that certain collateral consequences generally do not result upon a conviction for these lower-level offenses. Although a conviction for a DP could result in loss of driving privileges, deportation, forfeiture of office, violation of probation, or the loss of the presumption of non-imprisonment for a subsequent conviction, a conviction for a DP will not result in loss of voting rights, loss of the right to serve as a juror, or the potential of impeachment as a witness based upon the conviction.

Depending on the nature of the offense, there are also certain jurisdictional issues that arise from the distinction. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2B:12-17, a municipal court has jurisdiction over a DP offense, petty DP offense, or other non-indictable offense within its territorial jurisdiction, except where exclusive jurisdiction is given to the Superior Court. Although it is a rare occurrence, a municipal court may also try select criminal offenses of the fourth degree where there is a proper waiver of indictment and trial by jury. In certain limited circumstances, a municipal court may even have jurisdiction over an offense that did not occur within the boundaries of the municipality.

As previously mentioned, there is no presumption of imprisonment for conviction of a petty DP or DP offense – unlike certain criminal offenses where the presumption exists. Generally, defendants who have not been previously convicted of an offense are entitled to a presumption of non-incarceration; however, it is important to note that this presumption can be overcome upon a showing that the defendant’s imprisonment is necessary for the protection of the public due to the nature and circumstances of both the offense and offender.

As discussed above, a conviction for any offense may have serious and/or lifelong consequences. If you have been charged with an offense, you may have questions about your rights and obligations. If so, it is important to contact an experienced attorney. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.

Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq., 2014, all rights reserved

 

Timothy J. Little, P.C. is a full-service law firm with offices in Woodbridge and Chesterfield, New Jersey.  The attorneys at Timothy J. Little, P.C. represent individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey including Middlesex County (Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, East Brunswick, Spotswood, Perth Amboy, Dunellen, Colonia, Sewaren, Iselin, Avenel, Fords, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Port Reading, South Amboy, Monroe, Edison, Carteret, Cranbury, Helmetta, South River, Milltown, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Laurence Harbor), Monmouth County (Hazlet, Aberdeen, Matawan, Keyport, Cliffwood Beach, Middletown, Freehold), Union County, Ocean County, Somerset County, and Burlington County.

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A Brief Overview of the New Jersey Criminal Code: What is a Disorderly Persons Offense?

A Brief Overview of the New Jersey Criminal Code: What is a Disorderly Persons Offense?

By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.
There are six classes of offenses under the New Jersey Criminal Code: in increasing severity – petty disorderly persons offenses (“petty DP”), disorderly persons offenses (“DP”), fourth degree crimes, third degree crimes, second degree crimes, and first degree crimes. Petty DP and DP offenses are not crimes – when the term “crime” is used, this refers to offenses of the fourth degree or higher. When the term “offense” is used, however, not only are petty DP and DP offenses included, but all crimes as well. With some exceptions, motor vehicle offenses are specifically excluded from the meaning of “offense” and, therefore, are neither an “offense” nor a “crime” under New Jersey law.

Another important distinction between a lower-level offense and a crime is that a defendant accused of a petty DP or DP offense is not entitled to a trial by jury or an indictment by a Grand Jury. Although petty DP offenses and DP offenses are generally not punished as severely as an indictable offense, a conviction may still have serious repercussions – a variety of punishments are still possible for the offender including incarceration of up to six months and/or heavy fines. Furthermore, a conviction may result in loss of driving privileges, deportation, forfeiture of office, violation of probation, or the loss of the presumption of non-imprisonment for a subsequent conviction. Additionally, a petty DP or DP offender is usually required to pay court costs, an assessment to the Victims of Crime Compensation Office, and an assessment to the Safe Neighborhood Services Fund.

One potential advantage – for lack of a better word – of the distinction between a crime and a petty DP or DP offense, however, is that certain collateral consequences generally do not result upon a conviction for these lower-level offenses. Although a conviction for a DP could result in loss of driving privileges, deportation, forfeiture of office, violation of probation, or the loss of the presumption of non-imprisonment for a subsequent conviction, a conviction for a DP will not result in loss of voting rights, loss of the right to serve as a juror, or the potential of impeachment as a witness based upon the conviction.

Depending on the nature of the offense, there are also certain jurisdictional issues that arise from the distinction. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2B:12-17, a municipal court has jurisdiction over a DP offense, petty DP offense, or other non-indictable offense within its territorial jurisdiction, except where exclusive jurisdiction is given to the Superior Court. Although it is a rare occurrence, a municipal court may also try select criminal offenses of the fourth degree where there is a proper waiver of indictment and trial by jury. In certain limited circumstances, a municipal court may even have jurisdiction over an offense that did not occur within the boundaries of the municipality.

As previously mentioned, there is no presumption of imprisonment for conviction of a petty DP or DP offense – unlike certain criminal offenses where the presumption exists. Generally, defendants who have not been previously convicted of an offense are entitled to a presumption of non-incarceration; however, it is important to note that this presumption can be overcome upon a showing that the defendant’s imprisonment is necessary for the protection of the public due to the nature and circumstances of both the offense and offender.

As discussed above, a conviction for any offense may have serious and/or lifelong consequences. If you have been charged with an offense, you may have questions about your rights and obligations. If so, it is important to contact an experienced attorney. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.

Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq., 2014, all rights reserved

 

Timothy J. Little, P.C. is a full-service law firm with offices in Woodbridge and Chesterfield, New Jersey.  The attorneys at Timothy J. Little, P.C. represent individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey including Middlesex County (Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, East Brunswick, Spotswood, Perth Amboy, Dunellen, Colonia, Sewaren, Iselin, Avenel, Fords, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Port Reading, South Amboy, Monroe, Edison, Carteret, Cranbury, Helmetta, South River, Milltown, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Laurence Harbor), Monmouth County (Hazlet, Aberdeen, Matawan, Keyport, Cliffwood Beach, Middletown, Freehold), Union County, Ocean County, Somerset County, and Burlington County.

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