The Municipal Courts in New Jersey are often the first court that a person will have an interaction with. These local courts considered courts of limited jurisdiction – meaning that they do not hear every type of case, but rather are limited to certain cases. Municipal courts in New Jersey primarily have responsibility for hearing motor vehicle and parking tickets, minor criminal-type offenses, such as simple assault, and for municipal ordinance offenses, such as building and fire code violations. Municipal courts generally handle simple offenses, and the majority of crimes in New Jersey are prosecuted in this kind of court. Municipal courts often handle criminal charges including:
- Traffic violations
- Check fraud
- Basic assault crimes
- Civic ordinance violations
- Environmental crimes
Unlike the Superior Court that has jurisdiction in the entire county, a Municipal Court usually has jurisdiction only over cases that occur within the boundaries of its municipality. However, even though the municipal court will not hear many serious criminal cases, such as robbery, auto theft, or assault, these cases will often begin in Municipal Court and are subsequently transferred to the Superior Court located at the county courthouse.
What are your Rights in Municipal Court?
While some people assume that because Municipal Court is generally considered a lower court, that they do not really need to be concerned with the process, however, you can be sentenced to jail and incur steep fines even at the Municipal Court level. It is important to understand that even at a Municipal Court hearing, you have certain rights guaranteed to you by both the United States Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution. Namely:
1. You are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
2. You have the right to be informed of the charges against you.
3. You have the right to remain silent concerning the charges against you.
4. You have the right to retain an attorney.
5. You have the right to be assigned an attorney if the judge determines that you cannot afford an attorney, and there is a likelihood that if you are convicted, you will either go to jail, receive a substantial fine or your driver’s license will be suspended.
6. You have the right to request a reasonable postponement so that you have an opportunity to consult with your attorney and prepare a proper defense.
7. You have the right to testify or not to testify on your own behalf.
8. You have the right to call or subpoena witnesses to testify on your behalf.
9. You have the right to appeal within 20 days of any conviction.
It is important to remember that while the Municipal Court may be a court of limited jurisdiction, a Municipal Court judge has the authority to sentence you to jail and issue steep fines. Even at this stage you deserve to and are entitle to have a strong legal defense and to hire an attorney.
Cases Our Atlantic City Criminal Defense Lawyers Handle
At the Law Office of John J. Zarych, we know that any criminal charge can be confusing and even frightening. Our New Jersey Municipal Court defense attorneys have been committed to protecting your rights. We handle New Jersey Municipal Court matters, including:
- Traffic cases
- Charges of drunk driving
- Drug possession
- Disorderly conduct
- Underage drinking
At the Law Office of John J. Zarych, our lawyers provide affordable, effective, and aggressive legal representation.
What are the Consequences of a Municipal Court Conviction?
As mentioned above, even at the Municipal Court level the judge has the authority o sentence you to jail and impose fines. If you are facing a municipal court hearing even for something as minor as a traffic violation, then you can face a possible sentence of up to 6 months depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. In addition, a Municipal judge can impose a fine, revoke your driving privileges, and convict you of an offense.
If you or one of your loved ones was arrested in Atlantic City or the surrounding area, it’s important to get help from a skilled and knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. Don’t let a trial date sneak up on you: call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free legal consultation today. Se habla español.