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A misdemeanor is no big deal, right?

No crime is minor. Even if you suffer no immediate penalties, a conviction on your record may impede your future in ways you can't imagine. While you may be tempted to shrug off a speeding ticket or plead guilty to a misdemeanor just to get it over with, you may be making a mistake that will punish you for years to come.

One criminal charge you may think is minor is disorderly conduct. While this is a misdemeanor -- called a disorderly persons violation in New Jersey – you may still face penalties that could change the complexion of your future.

What is disorderly conduct?

If police have charged you with disorderly conduct, it means someone has accused you of misbehaving in public. Typically, public areas are those where many people gather. However, even if many people weren't present at the time, your behavior annoyed or worried someone enough that they called the police. You may have committed one of these offenses:

  • Fighting
  • Making threats
  • Placing others in danger for no good reason
  • Being too rowdy
  • Behaving violently

It may also shock you to learn that in New Jersey, using offensive language can earn you a disorderly conduct charge. This doesn't necessarily mean using curse words, but any language that may offend anyone close enough to hear.

What if I just plead guilty?

If you are convicted or simply plead guilty to disorderly conduct, you face penalties including fines and up to six months in jail. Of course, if your actions caused any damage or injured anyone, the court will likely require you to make restitution to the person affected. These penalties may seem steep if you consider that the charge is likely based on a subjective judgement.

These are the short-term consequences. A conviction on your record means that you may also have difficulty finding a job. Those responsible for hiring are often reluctant to consider candidates with such marks on their records because they fear the person is too much of a risk. Additionally, a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, may affect your eligibility for housing, financial aid or other opportunities.

What should I do next?

Just because New Jersey calls a certain crime a misdemeanor does not mean you will not bear serious consequences if convicted. While those consequences may seem tolerable, you may not even realize the real effect for years down the road. The best way to avoid this complication is to fight the charges.

An attorney who has seen countless crimes of all levels understands the true price you will pay for a conviction. Allowing a lawyer to examine your case may be the first step in keeping your future bright and free from obstacles.

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