Do You Have to Be Drunk to Get a Disorderly Conduct Charge in New Jersey?

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public intoxication new jersey

Unlike many other states, New Jersey does not have a statute criminalizing intoxication in a public place. Even though New Jersey law enforcement can’t arrest you simply because you are drunk, they may arrest you if they believe your behavior constitutes disorderly conduct. But what does that term mean? If you are asking yourself that very question, please read on, then contact an experienced Mercer County criminal defense lawyer.

What constitutes drunk and disorderly conduct in New Jersey?

“Drunk and disorderly conduct” is a colloquial expression, not a legal one. New Jersey statutes do not categorize offenses as felonies, misdemeanors and infractions, but rather as indictable crimes, disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. The latter two offense share similarities with misdemeanors in other states, because they are less serious and result in less jail time. Thus, you may face a disorderly persons charge if you were intoxicated and committed one or more disorderly offenses.

What are the penalties for disorderly conduct in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, disorderly persons offenses constitute offenses punishable by less than six months imprisonment. Depending on whether prosecutors charge you with a petty disorderly persons offense or a regular one, the exact penalties you face upon conviction will vary. To receive a petty disorderly persons charge, the prosecutor must assert that you fought in public, screamed obscenities in public, loudly disrupted a public meeting, engaged in harassment and/or trespassed. To warrant a regular disorderly persons charge, you must have committed a simple assault, shoplifted items less than two hundred dollars in value and/or resisted arrest. The penalties for both are as follows:

  • Disorderly persons offense: Up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000
  • Petty disorderly persons offense: Up to thirty days in jail and a fine of up to $500

How do New Jersey courts treat disorderly persons offenses?

A defendant does not have a right to a jury trial because New Jersey law does not consider disorderly persons offenses as crimes. If the judge determines a likelihood of imprisonment or other significant consequences upon conviction, you should avail yourself of the legal services of Douglas Herring, Esq.

How do you defend against charges of drunk and disorderly conduct?

An individual facing charges for a disorderly persons offense has a few potential defenses, most of which focus on showing that the prosecutor has little to no evidence to support one or more of the elements of the offense. Some common defenses include:

  • You were not, in fact, intoxicated at the time of the arrest
  • Law enforcement did not arrest you in a public place, or else involuntarily took you to a public place
  • You presented no real or potential danger

Our firm is here to help you if you face charges of disorderly conduct.


If you face a criminal matter, contact The Law Office of Douglas Herring to schedule your initial consultation.

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