You should obviously never break the law — laws are established to keep society running smoothly and protect all citizens as they proceed with their daily lives. But if you do break the law, some violations are much more serious than others and in New Jersey, these criminal acts can be designated as disorderly offenses or crimes, depending on what you are charged with and your conduct at the time.
A disorderly offense is typically less serious and often carries minimal penalties such as fines, community service, license suspension or a few days in jail. A crime, on the other hand, is much more serious, and can lead to weeks, months or years in jail, as well as parole sentences, and in some cases, lifetime bans from owning handguns or obtaining professional licenses.
Depending on what happened, if you have been charged with a disorderly offense, your charges could be escalated to the level of a crime. That said, it is important to understand how offenses and crimes are categorized and what factors could bump your criminal act up from a minor one to a major one.
Violent Disorderly Offenses
A case of simple assault is typically charged as a disorderly offense. However, if certain factors are present in a particular assault case, the charge can be upgraded to a crime, leaving the accused open to harsher penalties. If, for example, the assault involved a deadly weapon and caused injuries to the victim, the charges are more than likely to be accelerated and the attacker could be charged with a third-degree crime.
Theft and Larceny
In New Jersey, theft offenses are classified according to the value of the object or objects stolen. Most disorderly persons offenses for theft involve items that are valued at $200 or less. But if the item stolen is worth more than $200, a person can be charged with a third or fourth-degree crime and face increased penalties.
DUI – Traffic Offenses
Drunk driving charges can range in severity, depending on how high your blood alcohol content was at the time of the arrest, as well as the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding your arrest. In New Jersey, drunk driving is considered a traffic offense, but certain factors can contribute to a higher penalty level. Any case where passengers and other drivers sustained injuries, for example, can quickly be escalated to a higher level, with increased jail time and financial penalties.
In some cases, if you have a prior criminal record, you could be charged with a serious crime, even if the act you committed would typically be classified as a disorderly offense. Other factors that can escalate a particular crime include the role you played in the crime (if you committed a simple assault against certain victims e.g. police officers, teachers, elderly, or children, for example) or if the crime is considered a hate crime targeted against a specific group of people because of race, sexual orientation, or religion.
Call Your Lawyer Immediately
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, a New Jersey criminal defense law firm, we represent anyone who has been charged with any level of crime. It’s important that you get started on your defense as soon as you have been charged with criminal activity to prevent the charges from being escalated or the penalties from increasing. For more information on disorderly offenses, crimes and the factors that could escalate a criminal charge, contact our law offices today.