COVID-19 Violation of an Emergency Order is a New Jersey Disorderly Persons Offense Under
App.A:9-49, but it could get worse.
As New Jersey continues daily life under the Governor’s Emergency Order, we are seeing an increasing number of stories about what happens if the order is violated. If it was not already, it should be clear to all that compliance with the Order is not voluntary. This means that if you are in violation of the Order there will be consequences and those could include both disorderly persons violations and indicatable crimes.
Under App.A:9-49, the police have broad authority to charge individuals with a disorderly persons offense for violating the emergency Order. Some of examples we have seen in the news include keeping businesses open, gathering for parties and other get togethers such as weddings and protest. In addition to violation of App.A:9-49, we have also seen some other disorderly persons charges result. Examples include violations if N.J.S.A. 2C33-12, Maintaining a Nuisance, a disorderly persons offense and harassment under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4. These offenses are punishable by up to 6 months in the county jail and $1000 fine.
One would think that as social distancing measures are relaxed, we would see less of these types of charges. However, it really depends on the roll out of those roll backs. If the easing measures are done slowly, people will feel more comfortable gathering, even if they are in violation of the Order, using and apples to apples rational. But we could see increases enforcement as the Governor starts to implement new protocols.
In addition to the above offenses, we have also seen several instances where people are being charged with indictable offenses. For certain, some are experiencing some mental instability during a very scary and isolating time. This has manifested itself in some dangerous ways. People in public places claiming to have covid 19 corona virus have threatened essential workers, police, and others with transmitting the disease to them. These threats have included coughing, spitting and biting, etc. These sort of behavior is criminal and falls under several criminal indictable statutes.
Terroristic threats under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3 is a third degree offense under normal circumstances. But under a state of emergency, the crime is elevates to a 2nd Degree offense. A person is guilty of Terroristic Threats if he;
“threatens to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. A violation of this subsection is a crime of the second degree if it occurs during a declared period of national, State or county emergency. The actor shall be strictly liable upon proof that the crime occurred, in fact, during a declared period of national, State or county emergency. It shall not be a defense that the actor did not know that there was a declared period of emergency at the time the crime occurred.
b. A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he threatens to kill another with the purpose to put him in imminent fear of death under circumstances reasonably causing the victim to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out.”
The scary thing about a 2nd degree charge is that there is presumption that you go to state prison if you are convicted as compared with a 3rd degree charge where there is a presumption that you do not go to prison if convicted.
In addition to the above, recent arrest have included assault charges, resisting arrest and obstruction of justice. Assault on a police officer, even if it is a simple assault, is elevated to a 4th degree crime. Resisting arrest can also be charged as an indictable offense. Most of the time, obstruction of justice is charged as a disorderly persons offense.
If you have any questions or need additional information about this emerging area, please feel free to conduct our office. We are doing virtual conferences and phone conferences 24/7. We also understand that finances are tough for a lot of people currently and will work with you to come up with a reasonable payment schedule.