First NJ Court Appearance

First NJ Court Appearance

First NJ Court Appearance - The Basics

Your first NJ court appearance is a necessary formality. You should not be nervous. The purpose of a first court appearance is simple. By showing up to court, you are basically informing the judge that you are aware of your traffic tickets or that you know about your criminal charges.  Think of your first court appearance as a way of checking in. When you show up to your first NJ court appearance, the judge will check your name off his list & give you credit for showing up. When you do this, you avoid getting a bench warrant.

Municipal court judges are very kind & patient. They will explain the criminal charges or tickets you have & inform you of your right to have legal representation. If you do not have an attorney on your first NJ court appearance, the judge will give you 15 or 30 days to hire one. You not be asked about your case or questioned in any way. There is a process & judges are there to make sure that your rights are protected.

The most important thing to remember about the your first court appearance is that you must appear. By showing up for court, you are showing respect for the legal process & demonstrating to the court that you take your legal case seriously.

Preparing for your first NJ court appearance:

Before going to court, take the time to review a few things.

  • Find the court address. You want to be on time, and the court may or may not have a parking lot. If you have to park on the street, be prepared to walk a few blocks.
  • Dress appropriately. (more below)
  • Be prepared to go through security. 
  • Take all of your paperwork with you
  • Take a form of identification
  • You do not need to take an interpreter. The court will provide one in any language.

It is best to arrive early to court. Always expect that a line of people will be waiting to go through security. Do not bring any weapons or illegal drugs to court. If you do, the police will arrest you & you will face new charges.

Regarding Proper Attire

You should dress appropriately for the first NJ court appearance. You do not have to wear a suit or fancy dress, but remember what they say about first impressions.

Everything In Court Is Recorded

There are tiny microphones everywhere. Everything that is said will be recorded. Court sessions are recorded in the event that you wish to appeal the court’s decision. Recordings exist to protect everyone involved in a court proceeding. It’s the best way to avoid misunderstandings & confusion about how your case unfolded.

So be careful about what you say while you are sitting in court. There’s a good chance that a microphone is picking up every word.

It’s My First NJ Court Appearance, Can I Take Friends or Family?

Yes. They may sit in the gallery. They should be prepared to sit and wait until your case is called. They cannot read, eat, or drink anything while in the courtroom. And when the judge takes the bench, they must be silent.

Can I Miss My First NJ Court Appearance?

If you miss your first court date, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. In addition, your file will receive a failure to appear (FTA) notation & the court can assess an additional fine. Missing your first NJ court appearance is never a good idea.

If you retained an attorney to represent you, then you can ask your attorney to file an adjournment request. The court will consider your adjournment request & most judges grant these requests. However, adjournment requests should never be abused. Courts keep track of how many adjournment requests a defendant makes & will deny these requests if made excessively.

Of course, there are exceptional circumstances that are out of everyone’s control. If you are in a car accident, or sick, or hospitalized, it is understandable that you would miss your first NJ court appearance. However, prepare to provide evidence of your exceptional circumstance. The court will ask you for it.

If you missed your first NJ court appearance and the judge issued a bench warrant, contact us so that we can help you get it removed. One of our Jersey City clients faced simple assault charges in Hudson county and missed his first three court dates. The judge issued a bench warrant for our client & set a high bail. This meant that if our client got arrested, he would have to post bail to get released. After retaining us, we filed a motion to lift the bench warrant and brought our client to court. We successfully admitted our client into the conditional dismissal program. He avoided jail & getting a criminal record.

Do I Be Questioned At My First NJ Court Appearance?

If you have an attorney, your attorney will speak on your behalf. If you do not have an attorney, the court will ask you if you intend to hire an attorney. The judge will not ask you about your case or any legal defenses that you intend to rely on. The first appearance is not the time for you to tell your side of the story. The resolution of your case is a long process. If you are not represented by a lawyer, it is better to plead not guilty and request time to hire an attorney.

First NJ Court Appearance - Location

The location of your first NJ court appearance will depend on the type of charges you are facing. If you’re facing an indictable offense, then your matter will be heard in county court. On the other hand, if your matter involves a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor), then your matter will be heard in Municipal court.

If you are facing a disorderly persons offenses, DWI, traffic ticket, or municipal ordinance, then your first NJ court appearance will take place in municipal court. If you were arrested in Hackensack, then your case will be in Hackensack municipal court. If you were arrested in Newark, then your case will be in Newark municipal court. Get the idea?

The municipal prosecutor is responsible for prosecuting you. As your criminal lawyers, we plea bargain with the prosecutor to get you the best result possible. Sometimes, we can get the charges dismissed. Other times, we can work out a plea deal to downgrade your charge so that you avoid jail & pay a low fine. We also consider different diversionary programs that you may be eligible for and work with the prosecutor to get you admitted.

For example, if you’re facing marijuana possession charges and have a clean record, you may be eligible for a conditional discharge. When you successfully complete the program, your charges will be dismissed. It’s like it never happened.

In addition to showing the judge that you are serious about your case, it is equally important for you to appear at your first NJ court appearance so we can show the prosecutor that you are serious. Making a good impression on the prosecutor helps us when we’re negotiating on your behalf. 

For example, what will a prosecutor think if your lawyer is in court arguing your case but you didn’t care enough to show up? If your name is called and you are not present during your first NJ court appearance, it makes our job of defending you that much harder. 

Will I Be Notified About My First NJ Court Appearance?

When the police arrest you, they will generate a complaint. Your complaint will have all the details about the criminal charges you are facing.

It will contain:

  • the jurisdiction (the location where the alleged crime occurred),
  • the name of the victim(s),
  • the date of the arrest,
  • the section of the criminal code,
  • and the date of your first NJ court appearance.

However, do not rely on the date contained in your complaint about your court appearance. At our firm, we always contact the court to confirm the details of your first NJ court appearance. Dates are subject to change and we always follow up to make sure that you don’t miss court.

During your first NJ court appearance, the judge will confirm your address to make certain that you will receive notices for all future court dates. As your attorneys, we receive duplicate notices and confirm our attendance with the court.

Do I need an attorney for my first NJ court appearance?

We strongly recommend that you retain counsel before the first appearance. From experience, we know that the sooner we are involved in your case, the more time we have to develop an effective defense strategy.

Also, the process is incredibly stressful. Having counsel at your side goes a long way towards decreasing your anxiety about the process.

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How We Can Help

Regardless of the criminal charges you are facing, we are here to defend & protect you. Whether you are facing a restraining order, drug charge, theft charge, or aggravated assault charge, we are here to help you. Even a DWI case can really complicate your life.

If we can’t get your charges dismissed, we can either get them downgraded or place you in a diversionary program. The point is, our criminal defense lawyers will fight tirelessly to get you the best result possible. Take advantage of our free consultation to see how we can help.

Our Experience

You or a loved one have been arrested. Understandably, you are terrified & have a lot of questions. You’ve heard about plea bargains & probation, but the process is overwhelming. You want a local attorney near you to represent you.

Mr. Peyrouton is from Ridgewood & handles all types of criminal matters in New Jersey The New Jersey Law Journal recently published one of his articles on the subject of criminal law.

Our Practice Areas

Areas We Serve

Get Help With Your Case

How Do Your Free Consultations Work?

There are plenty of excellent Hackensack criminal lawyers in our area. Most, if not all of them, offer free, 20-minute, consultations. However, our free consultations do not have a time limit. You will never feel rushed.

The best way for us to help you is to patiently listen to your side of the story. Your version of events will serve as the basis for your legal defense. It is during these initial meetings that your memory of the event is fresh in your mind. Why we would rush you during such an important aspect of your case.

We understand that your choice of attorney could mean the difference between your freedom and spending years behind bars. 

When you hire an attorney, you are entering a long-term relationship. For this reason, it is important that you feel comfortable with the team of Hackensack criminal lawyers that will represent you.

A person extorts if he purposely threatens to:

a. Inflict bodily injury on or physically confine or restrain anyone or commit any other criminal offense;
b. Accuse anyone of an offense or cause charges of an offense to be instituted against any person;
c. Expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;
d. Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action;
e. Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;
f. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
g. Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another person.

***It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs b, c, d or f that the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.

Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is a “search” standard that applies in criminal law.

When a police officer conducts a warrantless search, and does not have probable cause to justify the search, the courts look to see if the police had
a “reasonable & articulable suspicion” for the search.

A mere “hunch” is not enough.

In other words, a police officer has to provide an acceptable explanation for the search.

United States Constitution

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

NJSA - 2C:43-7.2.
Eligibility for parole;
persons convicted of certain violent crimes

a. A court imposing a sentence of incarceration for a crime of the first or second degree enumerated in subsection d. of this section shall fix a minimum term of 85% of the sentence imposed, during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.

b. The minimum term required by subsection a. of this section shall be fixed as a part of every sentence of incarceration imposed upon every conviction of a crime enumerated in subsection d. of this section, whether the sentence of incarceration is determined pursuant to N.J.S.2C:43-6, N.J.S.2C:43-7, N.J.S.2C:11-3 or any other provision of law, and shall be calculated based upon the sentence of incarceration actually imposed. The provisions of subsection a. of this section shall not be construed or applied to reduce the time that must be served before eligibility for parole by an inmate sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration. Solely for the purpose of calculating the minimum term of parole ineligibility pursuant to subsection a. of this section, a sentence of life imprisonment shall be deemed to be 75 years.

c. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary and in addition to any other sentence imposed, a court imposing a minimum period of parole ineligibility of 85 percent of the sentence pursuant to this section shall also impose a five-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the first degree, or a three-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the second degree. The term of parole supervision shall commence upon the completion of the sentence of incarceration imposed by the court pursuant to subsection a. of this section unless the defendant is serving a sentence of incarceration for another crime at the time he completes the sentence of incarceration imposed pursuant to subsection a., in which case the term of parole supervision shall commence immediately upon the defendant’s release from incarceration. During the term of parole supervision the defendant shall remain in release status in the community in the legal custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and shall be supervised by the State Parole Board as if on parole and shall be subject to the provisions and conditions

Felony Degree

Prison & Fines



1st-degree felony charges in NJ are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses. Prison terms start at a minimum of 10 years in prison.


2nd-degree felony charges carry 5-10 yrs in prison.
These charges can often be “downgraded” to 3rd or 4th-degree crimes.


3rd-degree felony charges carry 3-5 years.
You have a good shot at PTI if you are charged with a 3rd-degree.


4th-degree felony charges carry up to 18 months in jail. These cases can get “remanded” to a lower court. In this way, you will be out of “felony” danger.