A court summons is an order to appear in court, usually because you’ve been charged with a crime or other offense. Fines and even jail time could be possible outcomes of your case, and it is important to address any summonses and appear in court when required, but you should never do so without the help of an attorney.
If you received a summons to appear in court in Atlantic County, NJ, you will have to appear on the date at the courthouse listed on the form. If the summons explains that you have been charged with particular violations or offenses – such as a traffic violation, a low-level charge, or more serious criminal charges – you should speak with an attorney and appear in court ready to fight the case against you.
For help with your potential case, call the Atlantic County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.
What is a Court Summons for Municipal Court?
A summons (plural “summonses”) is a form issued by a court to tell you when and where to appear to handle business filed in court against you. In some cases, this will be a civil action filed by another person against you, but our Atlantic County criminal defense lawyers help with criminal summonses.
For some crimes, the police will arrest you and send you to jail, where you will be booked and likely released on bail. You will leave court with documents telling you when to appear for your next hearing.
For other crimes and low-level offenses, police do not arrest you. For example, most traffic offenses or low-level crimes like disorderly conduct do not pose an immediate danger to those around you, and there is no reason for a police officer to risk anyone’s safety by arresting you, no reason to waste money by booking you, and no reason to waste space in jail by having you wait in detention until you can be arraigned or released on bail. Instead, summonses are issued to tell you when to appear in court to deal with your case.
A Summons vs. a Subpoena in Atlantic County, NJ
When the court wants you to appear as a party to a case, they issue a summons. If you were issued a summons by a police officer along with a ticket or in lieu of being arrested, it will tell you when to appear as a defendant in the case. Similarly, in civil cases, you are issued a summons if you are the defendant in the case.
A subpoena can be issued against parties, witnesses, or others involved in the case. A subpoena tells you when to appear in court for testimony or tells you what items and files to bring to court so they can be used as evidence. Defendants can be subpoenaed to turn over evidence to a grand jury that is investigating them for an indictable crime, and anyone can be subpoenaed to turn over evidence or appear as a witness, even if they are not a party to a case.
If you receive either type of paper from the court, you should probably check with a lawyer to see if it means that you are under investigation or potentially facing charges. If you received a summons, then you are likely facing charges and need to appear in court to fight them.
Where Do I Go for a Municipal Court Summons in Atlantic County, NJ
Atlantic County is the third largest county in the state, covering 561 square miles and containing a population of around 275,638 people. It covers cities and towns like Egg Harbor, Atlantic City, Halloway, Hamilton, and more. This is all to say that Atlantic County has many municipal courthouses spread across various towns, and your summons could be for any of the municipal courthouses in the county.
Fortunately, your summons will usually have the name of the courthouse, its address, and even the specific courtroom you should go to listed right on the document. If you have any doubts about where you need to be or when you need to be there, ask your lawyer.
What Happens When I Go to Municipal Court for a Summons in Atlantic County, NJ?
As mentioned, a summons tells you to arrive at court to be a defendant in a case. What happens on the day you arrive in court is often the same, but does depend on what level of charges you are facing:
Summonses are often issued for traffic tickets, and you can fight the ticket when you go to court. The judge will have to put on a hearing where the police officer who issued the ticket will testify as to what happened. You will also have a chance to testify or call witnesses (if you have any). You can also introduce evidence and exhibits to try to fight the case.
If the officer does not show up, you might win your case automatically.
There is no jury, and the judge will decide your case. If you are facing very serious traffic charges like DWI charges or reckless driving, it is vital to work with a lawyer and take this case very seriously.
These cases are tried in municipal court as well and should be treated similarly to traffic tickets: get a lawyer and expect to fight the case that day. The case might be for unique or niche violations, depending on the ordinance you are accused of violating.
Disorderly Persons Offenses and Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses
Like traffic tickets, charges for low-level offenses called “disorderly persons offenses” and “petty disorderly persons offenses” are tried in municipal court. You should be ready to go for trial the day you arrive if you want to challenge the charges, but our lawyers will work ahead of time to see if we can negotiate a potential plea.
Even though these cases are technically lower-level violations, they can still result in severe penalties and fines.
Indictable crimes are serious offenses – like what other states call felonies. These cases are usually handled at the Superior Court level (i.e., the county court). They usually will not be handled at municipal courts, and your summons should send you to a different court in most of these cases.
Call Our Atlantic County, NJ Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
If you received a summons, call (609) 616-4956 for a free case assessment with the Atlantic County criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych.