How is New Jersey Municipal Court Unique?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Kathleen M. Reilly with Brady Brady & Reilly, LLC.
In most instances, municipal courts tend to handle certain limited civil and criminal cases such as Class C misdemeanors, whereas felonies and catastrophic injury cases will likely be conducted in a higher court. A municipality is any city or town with its own local government and corporate status, so municipal courts hear cases that occur within that municipality’s jurisdiction and are generally limited to petty misdemeanors. However, New Jersey municipal court is unique.
In most states, felonies and misdemeanor criminal cases must be heard in district courtrooms. However, New Jersey municipal court is unique in that they will hear non-felony offenses and petty misdemeanors, such as drunk driving and criminal mischief. If you are facing a DUI/DWI, traffic violation, or other non-felony offense in New Jersey, reach out to a municipal defense attorney in the area to discuss your options.
Common cases heard in New Jersey municipal courtrooms include but are not necessarily limited to the following:
- DUI/DWI charges
- Speeding tickets
- Reckless driving
- Driving without insurance
- Driving while on suspension
- Driving after revocation
- Simple assaults
- Disorderly persons offenses
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Minor in possession of tobacco or alcohol
- Reckless damage or destruction
- Violation of Fish and Game laws
- Violation of boating regulations
- Violation of Parks and Forests
- Violations of local laws
It’s important to note that municipal courts are also responsible for enforcing city ordinances which vary from place to place. Fire codes, animal safety laws, and other matters of public health or sanitization may fall into municipal jurisdiction, so it’s a good idea to be aware of the city ordinances in your area to prevent any accidental violations.
If you are assigned a court date, you must appear in court.
There is an odd misconception that failing to make a court date for a matter being handled in municipal court is not that big of a deal. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Failing to attend a court date could result in issuing a warrant for your arrest. If you were issued a citation and assigned a court date, you must appear in court on that date or face severe consequences. In fact, it will likely take an attorney to lift your warrant and you will likely have to pay your own bond at least partially if not in full.
If an offense is non-criminal, you may be able to pay a fine through the mail.
In non-criminal issues, if your citation does not include a requirement for your court appearance, you may plead guilty and pay the fine remotely by mail or by going into the courthouse. This saves the hassle of making a court date, unless you want to fight the charges. However, if you feel that the charge or charges you are facing are unfair, it’s a good idea to reach out to an attorney for legal counsel.
A municipal defense attorney can help you contest your charges as effectively as possible.
The law can be complicated, both in interpretation and application. If you have questions about your case or you want to fight one or more charges, talk to a defense attorney. An experienced municipal defense attorney can help you save time, money, and stress when facing a charge in municipal court. Even if they are unable to free you entirely from the charge itself, they may be able to lessen the penalty you face. If you or a loved one are facing a non-felony offense in municipal court, it’s a good idea to talk to a municipal defense attorney sooner rather than later.