Criminal Charges and Violations During COVID-19 in NJ
If you have been arrested for a violation of New Jersey’s Stay at Home Order or another criminal offense, you are not alone. The Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, vowed to take legal action against anyone in New Jersey who fails to adhere to the Governor’s Stay at Home Orders. Grewal promises that residents and visitors who defy the Governor’s directives will be arrested for violating the Stay at Home Order and may also be arrested for any crime while the order remains in effect. Essentially, the State of New Jersey hopes that its residents get the message loud and clear that it will stop at nothing to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney Grewal and Governor Murphy are jointly seeking to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 outbreak through the issuance of several Executive Orders further limiting what people can do and what specific types of establishments can remain open. As the Executive Orders broaden, people’s actions are more restricted, and violations are more strictly enforced. Police must carry out the laws and directives of the state, even if it means putting themselves at risk. Because officers and emergency responders are at risk for exposure while conducting their regular duties, Grewal has promised to fully prosecute those who are charged with violating the law during the emergency. As proof of that the AG continues to carry out the mission of protecting the public, the Attorney General’s Office publishes updates about those arrested for having violated the Order. A review reveals numerous disorderly persons offenses having been filed against those accused of arranging large gatherings in opposition to the Order, among other others. However, the list also includes many alleged crimes that are more serious than a disorderly persons offense, known as indictable crimes or felonies in New Jersey.
Criminal Charges & Violations of the NJ Coronavirus Order
Although some cases are upgraded and have more severe punishments than others, some are considered disorderly persons offenses. Specifically, any general violation of the Emergency Order is a disorderly persons offense and is heard in the local municipal court. Whether you threw a party or opened your business like a man who recently ran into trouble in Woodbridge, you will be charged with this offense. Other charges heard in municipal court that may accompany a violation include simple assault, disorderly conduct (a petty disorderly persons offense), harassment, and resisting arrest, just to name a few.
Many of these cases may arise from domestic violence incidents in which the police respond to a call and things escalate. Domestic violence cases are said to be on the rise during the pandemic perhaps because of the added stressors of lack of funds and being locked in homes together without any outlet. For example, an Edison man was arrested for allegedly coughing at officers when they responded to a home in connection with an alleged domestic violence incident. It was further alleged that while coughing in the direction of officers, he told them that he had Coronavirus. It was also reported that he started to kick his legs to avoid being arrested. He was charged with terroristic threats, aggravated assault, and obstruction of law. Actions and allegations such as this are not uncommon during the pandemic, as stress levels are high and our most-utilized coping mechanisms are largely unavailable because of the limits that the Order effectuates.
Among those arrested in Edison, Woodbridge, and elsewhere in Middlesex County, those charged with indictable crimes will be prosecuted in the Middlesex County Superior Court, Criminal Division. The Superior Court in Middlesex County is located at 56 Paterson Street in New Brunswick, NJ. Depending on the case, a person may be charged with a second, third, fourth, or even first degree crime. For instance, the charge of terroristic threats is usually a third degree crime but if threats are made during a declared emergency, the charges may be upgraded to a second degree crime. The difference between a second and third degree crime is significant, as a second degree crime entails a presumption of incarceration for all offenders, regardless of their prior record. For a second degree criminal conviction, a judge may order state prison for 5-10 years, while with a third degree crime, the potential sentence ranges from 3-5 years.
Because of the seriousness of the COVID virus, and the State’s intention to protect the public and emergency responders, the attorney General’s Office has taken over many of these cases and upgraded the charges to second degree crimes. The AG will assign Deputy Attorney Generals to prosecute these cases. As opposed to prosecutors from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, a Deputy AG may prosecute your case depending on the circumstances.
Charged with an Offense during Coronavirus in Middlesex County NJ?
Whether your case arises from domestic violence or for having a party, you should seek the advice of counsel. Even a lower-level offense handled in municipal court in South Brunswick, East Brunswick, Edison, Woodbridge, Piscataway, or New Brunswick carries the potential for harsh consequences. In fact, for a disorderly persons offense, you can be ordered to serve jail time for a maximum amount of 6 months. Even for something as seemingly simple as disorderly conduct, you can be sentenced to up to 30 days in the Middlesex County Jail. Some offenses carry additional potential penalties, such as restraining orders in domestic violence cases.
You may have been dealing with a lot at the time of the incident and the allegations may not even be founded in truth. In a shocking number of cases, our clients did virtually nothing wrong and were falsely accused. Regardless of the circumstances, our criminal defense lawyers in Middlesex County will be there for you. We have been defending clients facing criminal charges in the local Middlesex County area for many years and our practice is committed to providing the best representation for people like you. If you are facing charges for marijuana possession, DWI, aggravated assault, or a violation of the current order regarding COVID-19, please do not hesitate to contact our local Edison NJ office today for a free consultation. You can reach us 24/7 online or by calling (732) 659-9600 to discuss your case and enlist dedicated defense representation.