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New Jersey Disorderly Conduct Laws

Under New Jersey law, disorderly conduct is considered a "breach of the peace" and can arise out of many different situations and circumstances. In more general terms, you could be arrested and charged with this offense by engaging in "improper behavior" or "using offensive language." For instance, you could be arrested for screaming obscenities or making lewd gestures at a cashier. In this case, the inappropriateness of such behavior would overshadow one's freedom of speech or expression.

What is Considered Improper Behavior in New Jersey?

You can be arrested for improper behavior if you purposefully cause a public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk of any of the following:

  • Fighting
  • Threatening
  • Committing violent or tumultuous behavior
  • Creating a hazardous or physically dangerous condition which serves no legitimate purpose

For example, getting into a bar room brawl can be considered "improper behavior," among other possible crimes.

Offensive Language

What is offensive language? It's words used to offend people within hearing distance in a reckless disregard for them. Typically, offensive language is loud, coarse, or abusive. Let's say you are at a Phillies game and start heckling New YorK Mets fans. It's possible you could be in violation of the law.

The following table highlights the main points of New Jersey's disorderly conduct laws.

Code Sections

The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice 2C § 33-2

What is Prohibited

You may be charged with disorderly conduct using improper behavior if you act to cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm by:

  • Engaging in fighting, threatening, or violent and tumultuous behavior, or
    creating a dangerous condition that serves no legitimate purpose;
  • Offensive language when it is used to offend people within hearing distance in a reckless disregard for them.

Up to six (6) months in jail and fines. Possible restitution to the victim.

What is a public place?

"Public" means affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access; among the places included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, or any neighborhood including concert halls or a sports stadiums.

Statute of Limitations

One (1) year from the date of the offense.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Get Professional Legal Help With Your Disorderly Conduct Offense

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, the prosecution's case will likely be based on a combination of police testimony and the testimony of witnesses. But it's also important for them to prove that your actions crossed the line from free expression to disorderly conduct. The best way to defend your interests is to speak with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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