When Are Court Appearances Mandatory in New Jersey?

Not every interaction you have with the police will require that you go to court. The same can be said about receiving a traffic ticket. However, many people ask after they have received a ticket or received a summons in the mail if they have to go to court?

When Is a Court Appearance Required?

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Going to court can be a scary experience, particularly when you are not sure what is going to happen.  In New Jersey, a court appearance is always required in criminal matters. Some examples where a court appearance is always required include assault, shoplifting, harassment, DUI, and drug charges.  In addition to criminal offenses, which always require a personal court appearance, certain serious traffic violations will also require that a person appears before their local judge.  Some of the more serious traffic violations that may require you to appear in court include:

  • Tailgating
  • Exceeding the maximum speed by over 30 miles over the limit.
  • Improperly passing a school bus
  • Inflicting personal injury
  • Racing on a highway

In addition to criminal matters and serious traffic offenses, you will have to make an appearance for an “arraignment or first appearance” in Municipal Court for serious criminal offenses.

In addition to the required appearances, you may also be required to make an appearance if you want any of the following:

  • You wish to have a trial – meaning that you wish to contend the ticket or the charge.
  • The charge is not listed on the Statewide Violations Schedule – if the ticket cannot be paid by mail or in the court office, then you may make an appearance.
  • Personal injury is involved – when there has been a personal injury from a car accident or any other event that may lead to a personal injury you will be required to appear in court.

If any of the above apply to you, then you may be expected and required to go to court.

When Is a Court Appearance Not Required?

There are many times that you do not have to personally go to court. Most of these cases revolve around traffic tickets. The best way to know if you are required to go to court after receiving a traffic ticket is to look at the ticket itself. If you are required to go to court for your traffic offense then the box labeled “court appearance required” will be checked off. However, if it is not checked off then you may not have to go to court.

The only reason why you would have to go to court after receiving a traffic ticket that does not require an appearance is when you would like to contest it. However, if you decide that you do not want to contest the ticket you can enter a guilty plea to the court and simply pay the fine on the ticket.  Court appearances are generally not required in non-criminal matters such as traffic, boating, fish and game, and parks and forests violations. If you decide that you do not want to contest your ticket, then you can mail your payment, or you can make a payment at the court office.

However, in order to effectively end your case you need to complete all parts of the ticket, which includes accurately filling out the appearance, plea, and waiver sections on the back of the ticket. In addition, you will have to make a payment in the correct amount to the Violations Bureau.  If you do not pay a ticket a judge can issue a warrant for your arrest, which means that you will be required to go to court.

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What Are the Potential Penalties?

Part of the reason why it is scary to go to court is that you are not sure what the judge or the jury is going to decide. They may rule in your favor and enter a verdict of not guilty, or they can assign a variety of other punishments including:

Jail: This is probably the most familiar punishment and the one that is most often feared. Even the local municipal judge can impose a jail sentence for certain offenses. A municipal judge can sentence a person to up to six months in jail. However, in the superior court and higher courts in New Jersey the judge is empowered to sentence longer stays in jail.

Fines: Everyone has heard of a case where the jury returns a verdict of guilty for some offense and awards an absurd amount of money to the victim. However, a judge can impose fines based on parameters set in the law. In some cases, there are minimum fines that a person is generally expected to pay at the time they are imposed.

License suspension: Many offenses require that the judge imposes a license suspension for a certain minimum period. During these periods a driver cannot drive for any reason.

A judge also has the authority to impose other sanctions as well including, community service, mandatory attendance at an intoxicated driver resource center, and even issue points to your New Jersey Drivers license

If You’ve Received a Ticket or Court Summons Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

Receiving a ticket with a mandatory court appearance is not something to take lightly. This is also true for any summons you may receive. Do not go to court on your own, the stakes are too high, working with an experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyer or a traffic ticket attorney is one of the most effective ways of having your ticket dismissed or your charges dropped. Contact us today at (609) 616-4956.

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