By definition, an assault offense involves a victim who received bodily injuries as a result of someone else’s actions. Such actions could have been done on purpose, with the intent to harm, or by reckless actions without initial intent to harm.
Verbal aggression such as yelling or cursing at someone in a public place can be a minor offense and may result in a petty disorderly person’s offense in New Jersey rather than assault. According to New Jersey law 2C:33-2(b), uttering offensive language in a public place to offend those hearing it can lead to a conviction. A public place is any place to which groups of people may have access to.
While a disorderly person’s offense is the least serious category of criminal offenses, it should not be taken lightly. If charged, an individual will have a criminal record and might end up spending up to 30 days in jail and paying a fine of up to $500, plus restitution payments for any damaged property when mandated by a judge. Having a criminal record can result in future challenges such as finding housing or employment.
A criminal defense attorney may have several options to dismantle a disorderly person’s offense case involving verbal aggression. Everyone has a constitutional right to free speech and in some circumstances, simply being loud and using offensive words may not be enough reason for the police to accuse someone of being disruptive to public peace and inciting an immediate breach.
The burden of proof lies with the prosecution – they will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person did cause a breach of the peace and that the arrest was justified for that same reason. A criminal defense attorney may challenge this accusation by providing evidence showing reasons why the defendant’s conduct did not constitute a breach of the peace, or that he/she had a legitimate purpose driving the behavior.
Another option for beating or dismissing a verbal aggression charge is commonly referred to as a “carry order.” With a carry order, the prosecution and the judge agree to “carry” or extend the case for 60 or 90 days so as to allow the defendant to undergo counseling for substance abuse or anger management (whichever was the root cause for the offense). After that period, the defendant must return to court and show proof that he/she completed the required counseling program and remained arrest-free for the entire time. If those requirements are met, the judge will them dismiss the charges, allowing the defendant to avoid a criminal record and the penalties associated with a disorderly person’s offense, such as jail time and fines.
There are many nuances to charges involving verbal aggression by the use of offensive words and loud behavior. Our firm helps clients across Hudson County to understand their charges, answer questions, and address issues you may not even have realized were important.
If you have been accused of a disorderly person’s offense and would like to know your options or believe your constitutional rights to free speech have not been respected, contact the Law Offices of Keith Hirschorn, P.C. by calling 201-798-4024.