Our last blog post discussed a major New Jersey Supreme Court ruling. In essence, the court ruled that the seat belt law is one of our state’s public health and safety laws — violating any of which in a reckless manner that results in an injury or death can be charged as a crime. Readers may be wondering how this affects them. Importantly, many will wonder: what other public health and safety laws do I need to know about that could give rise to criminal charges?
Perhaps one of the best-known public health and safety laws involves public intoxication. Morristown police will commonly stop individuals who they might think appear to be drunk, perhaps on their way out of a bar, maybe staggering or swearing or otherwise acting out. You don’t even need to be under the influence to be charged with public intoxication — police can charge you just for appearing to be so, as long as you’re in a public place.
Other public health and safety laws include disorderly conduct. Police often fall back on this charge when they are looking for a reason to book someone they know to be harmless but who they think is being disruptive in some way. A related, but more serious charge is disturbing the peace, which can involve fighting in public, making threats or trying to incite violence.
As we noted in our last blog post, the recent state Supreme Court ruling only comes into play if, in the course of allegedly committing any of these violations, a defendant is accused of recklessness that causes injury or death to another person. For example, disturbing the peace in a way that leads to a panic in which someone gets trampled by a crowd might now be a criminal charge for which penalties could range up to 10 years in prison.
A criminal defense professional can be an important resource when facing charges under this new ruling. The information in this and our preceding post is only intended as general background; readers seeking advice pertaining to a specific situation may wish to consult with such a professional.