NJ Municipal Court Case Process
July 10, 2019
How Cases are Handled in NJ Municipal Court
In New Jersey, disorderly persons offenses (similar to misdemeanor offenses in other states) and traffic offenses are tried in municipal courts. A municipal court has local jurisdiction over cases that arise from acts committed in the township, city, or other community where the municipal court is located. Municipal courts follow different procedures than those followed in New Jersey Superior Courts, which handle indictable offenses (similar to felonies). The following provides further explanation about the process of criminal and traffic cases in municipal courts. Please feel free to contact our local criminal defense lawyers for answers about upcoming charges that you are facing in Clark, Linden, Cranford, Scotch Plains, Elizabeth, Mountainside, Union, or another municipal court in New Jersey. You can contact us online or call (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation.
Starting a Criminal or Traffic Case in Municipal Court
Generally, if you find yourself in a situation where you must appear in municipal court, you will have first received a summons. You may have experienced this process before when you receive certain types of traffic tickets. A traffic summons will notify you of the location of the municipal court and the date and time at which you will appear. You can also receive summonses for certain criminal offenses, including shoplifting under $200 worth of goods, possessing less than 50 grams of marijuana, disorderly conduct, drug paraphernalia, and simple assault. Violations of local municipal ordinances, for example a noise complaint brought against you by your neighbor, are also heard in the municipal court. If you are charged with an indictable offense, your case will be transferred to the local Superior Court in the county and will be handled by the County Prosecutor’s Office.
You must appear in court on a summons for any criminal offense and some traffic offenses. You are required to appear in municipal court if there is a checkbox marked on the back of your ticket indicating that a court appearance is required. In all these instances, your summons will notify you of where to go and what time to be there. You may want to arrive early to locate the relevant courtroom and find your attorney if you hired one.
What Happens in Municipal Court in New Jersey?
At your first appearance, you will likely have to wait in the courtroom for some time before your case is called. Court rules direct that continuances be heard first, then uncontested motions, then first appearances, then “guilty” pleas, then contested motions, then “not guilty” pleas where a defendant has an attorney, then “not guilty” pleas where a defendant does not have an attorney. Depending on where you are in line, you can be waiting in court for quite a long time at a first appearance. During the first appearance, the charges against you will be read and you will be allowed to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”
If you plead not guilty or otherwise fail to resolve your case at your first appearance in municipal court, you may be ordered back for one or more subsequent hearings. You may receive discovery information from the municipal prosecutor, bring or respond to motions before the municipal court judge, and, finally, you may proceed to trial on your case. If you are representing yourself, the judge will likely inform you that these proceedings can be complicated and difficult for an average person to navigate without an attorney.
Looking for a Clark NJ Lawyer for Municipal Charges
If you have an upcoming case in municipal court, you should not head there alone. Many of the criminal charges and traffic violations handled in municipal court are punishable by serious penalties, including potential jail, hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines and court fees, driver’s license suspension, and more. On top of that, a conviction for a disorderly persons offense in municipal court means you will have a criminal record. Moreover, a DWI could lead to loss of your license for anywhere from 3 months to 10 years. Facing these charges on your own runs you the risk of not getting the best possible outcome. It simply isn’t worth it. Put yourself in the best possible position by obtaining top-notch representation. Call our NJ municipal defense lawyers anytime at (908) 838-0150 to discuss your case free of charge.