Everyone has seemingly been stuck inside for over a year while waiting patiently for the COVID-19 pandemic to subside and for local cities like Hoboken and Jersey to completely lift their curfews and other restrictions. Well, the good news is that life is beginning to return to normal as more and more people get immunity from the coronavirus, and more and more states allow businesses to return to their normal operations. The bad news, however, is that there will likely be a significant rise in arrests, tickets, and criminal charges as New Jersey opens up post-pandemic. What could this mean for you as we head into the summer months? And what should you do if you are ticketed or arrested in Hoboken, Jersey City, Union City, or anywhere else in Hudson County? Keep reading to find out.
Rise in Arrests Is Likely as Covid-19 Restrictions Are Eased in New Jersey
While we should all be breathing a sigh of relief that the coronavirus pandemic could soon be a thing of the past, the unfortunate reality is that we should also expect a sharp rise in arrests as COVID-19 restrictions are eased. For starters, fewer restrictions in a post-pandemic environment will mean more people outside their homes, interacting with one another in public and catching the attention of law enforcement who may be looking to make arrests and issue tickets after a year of relative inactivity. Although many cities have seen an increase in the number of serious felonies like homicides and gun crimes during the past year, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) like simple assault, disorderly conduct, and drug possession. Additionally, there have been fewer traffic offenses and DWI arrests and charges during the COVID-19 pandemic because fewer people were leaving their residences during the day to commute to work, and even fewer motorists were going to bars or liquor stores to consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel at night.
The unique timing of the easing of coronavirus restrictions also means that a significant number of people will be venturing outside when there is better weather in the summer months and younger children and college students are home from school. Even in normal years, the summer months of June, July, and August typically see more people getting outside, attending parties, driving on local roads and highways, and venturing to bars and restaurants where alcohol is consumed. This figures to be especially true in a post-pandemic world, since many Hudson County residents have been cooped up inside for over a year due to city curfews and fears of getting sick.
Curfews Lifted in Hudson County Cities
Hoboken and Jersey City were two Hudson County cities that removed local curfews for bars and restaurants early in the pandemic. The Hoboken and Jersey City mayors both made the decision to lift coronavirus curfew restrictions at local establishments after NJ Governor Phil Murphy announced that he would be lifting statewide restrictions. With bar closing times moving from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., and restaurants also no longer limited to shutting down at 10 p.m. every night, there has been a surge in the number of people staying out longer at night, especially on weekends. At the same time, there has also been a surge in the number of arrests for minor criminal offenses and in the number of traffic tickets issued by police officers who patrol streets at night looking for intoxicated drivers and other people violating criminal and traffic laws.
Common Charges You May Face in Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, and Union City After Reopening
When people began to work from home and stopped commuting to work every day during the pandemic, the number of traffic tickets issued by NJ police departments went down considerably. The same was true of arrests and charges for minor criminal offenses: with many businesses closed and municipal curfews imposed, people who stayed home at nights and on weekends were less likely to get into the kinds of altercations or trouble that might lead to police making arrests. There is a high likelihood that this trend will reverse course in the months ahead as the coronavirus pandemic abates and more people go outside for work and leisure. In fact, there has already been a rise in traffic tickets and arrests in many Hudson County cities and towns now that vaccinated individuals feel more comfortable congregating in public.
This summer, some of the offenses that will likely become more common again in places like Bayonne, North Bergen, Jersey City, Hoboken, and Kearny include the following:
- Disorderly Conduct: Police often bring charges for disorderly conduct when someone is involved in a fight or is otherwise being aggressive or violent in public. It is common for disorderly conduct charges to be filed against rowdy individuals on weekends in college towns, and also in cities like Hoboken and Jersey City where there are plenty of bars, nightclubs, and other places to celebrate at night. If you are charged with disorderly conduct, it means that you allegedly engaged in “improper behavior” or used language considered offensive or abusive. A conviction on disorderly conduct charges could result in a sentence of up to 30 days in jail.
- Simple Assault: A person can be charged with simple assault if they get into any kind of physical altercation that causes bodily injury to someone else. Even when that altercation does not rise to the level of aggravated assault, the person can be placed under arrest. It is even possible to be charged with simple assault when there was no physical contact at all because the relevant statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a), also covers attempts to put someone else in fear of bodily injury. In most cases, a conviction on simple assault charges is punishable by a sentence of up to 6 months in jail.
- Drug Possession: When police have probable cause that someone is committing a crime, they may be able to search that person, as well as that person’s property. If you are out and about this summer and police find you in possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) such as heroin, cocaine, or even prescription pills for which you don’t have a valid prescription, you could quickly find yourself under arrest and charged with a very serious drug crime. While the exact penalties for drug possession will depend on the type and quantity of drug, a drug possession conviction often results in prison time. For example, simple possession of a small amount of cocaine is punishable by a sentence of 3-5 years in state prison. In fact, third degree possession of CDS is by far the most common charge filed against people accused of illegally possessing drugs.
- Traffic Violations: Traffic tickets can have severe consequences because they can result in points on your driver’s license, and too many points could lead to your license being suspended. Additionally, police officers often issue multiple tickets in conjunction with a single motor vehicle stop. For instance, a person swerving across traffic lanes while driving over the speed limit may be ticketed for both speeding and careless driving. Not only can a poor driving record lead to heavy fines and license suspension, but it is also likely to cause your insurance carrier to raise your rates.
- DWI/DUI: Driving while under the influence offenses are technically classified as traffic offenses, but they are more serious than a typical traffic violation because they can result in driver’s license suspension and jail time, among other serious penalties. New Jersey police, including those in Hudson County, are notorious for cracking down on intoxicated motorists and DWI checkpoints are a frequent source of even more DUI charges against randomly stopped drivers who just so happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition to losing your driving privileges and being sentenced to jail time, an ignition interlock device, heavy financial penalties, and more for a DWI, the conviction will also go on your permanent driving record. Beyond that, if you have prior DWI convictions in New Jersey or elsewhere, a subsequent conviction could result in mandatory jail time and lengthy suspension of your driving privileges.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Attorney Today
The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, and a subsequent return to regular business hours for establishments in Jersey City, Hoboken, Secaucus, and elsewhere in Hudson County, almost certainly means that more people will be facing charges for a wide variety of criminal offenses and traffic violations in the summer months ahead. The bottom line is that having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side helping you fight the charges, contest the tickets, and protect your interests throughout the legal process can be enormously beneficial. Even if you don’t think the charges are all that serious, it is extremely important that you speak to a knowledgeable attorney before you show up for your day in court, or before you plead guilty, because a guilty plea or conviction can have unanticipated adverse effects now and in the future.
Ultimately, you won’t know if there are ways to get the charges you face in Weehawken, Bayonne, Guttenberg, or another city dismissed without having your case thoroughly reviewed by a criminal attorney who challenges cases like yours every day. Contact the Jersey City law office of William Proetta Criminal Law to discuss your case with an attorney free of charge and confidentially. You can reach us online or call (201) 793-8018 today.