New Jersey Municipal Courts are where all of the action happens.
Municipal Court - The Basics
New Jersey Municipal Courts handle the highest volume of cases in the state.
Patience is an absolute necessity when going to municipal court.
Your visit could take anywhere from an hour to four hours, especially when the court is crowded.
Expect medium to long lines starting at the security line. Then you will have to wait in line to speak with the prosecutor. Next, you will have to wait for the judge to call your case.
Lastly, you will have to wait at the ticket window to pay your fines.
NJ municipal court Appearances
First and foremost, carry yourself as you would when you attend your school or religious institution.
Conduct yourself during your court appearance as you would in any formal gathering.
Plan in advance and think of all of the things that you would take into consideration, i.e. parking, proper attire, punctuality, seating, and most importantly, an adequate supply of patience.
You will be expected to demonstrate proper conduct at all times.
Proper conduct means:
- No talking or texting;
- No eating/drinking/chewing gum;
- Showing respect for court staff.
Court employees are some of the hardest-working employees in the New Jersey Municipal Court system and should never be mistreated. In my experience, they are always doing their absolute best to help everyone.
If English is not your first language.
If English is your second language, you may feel that you will not be able to properly present your case. Do not worry.
Every Municipal Court in New Jersey either has an interpreter in the courtroom or they have the technology to call a service that offers interpreters for every language.
In short, everyone is accommodated.
municipal court - Time-Saving Tips
Have Your Paperwork
Being prepared with your documents will speed up the process. Your paperwork contains your ticket or complaint number and providing this to the court clerk simplifies everyone’s life.
Cell Phones Off
If you are not represented by counsel, kindly inquire as to where you should go to check-in. with the exception of counsel cases, all matters are taken in the order in which the person arrives.
New Jersey Municipal Court prosecutors deal with hundreds of people a week and these professionals really appreciate courteous defendants. If you are appearing for a minor traffic offense, you may get a good result on your own & save money on attorney fees.
Every court is filled with microphones. These microphones are state-of-the-art microphones and they are super sensitive. They will record absolutely everything that is said in the court room. You do not have an expectation of privacy in court and if you whisper an incriminating fact about your case to anyone, it may be recorded & used against you.
Every court follows an order in hearing each case (with slight variations).
Attorney cases go first.
This means that if a defendant has retained counsel, even if the defendant and his attorney arrive after you, their case is heard first. This is a court rule.
The reason for this is that attorneys appear in different courts throughout the day and if they had to wait until the very end of each court session to have their matter heard, then the courts would be back-logged for years.
Next, the judge hears all guilty pleas, dismissals, and adjournments (case gets carried to another date).
Towards the end of each court session, the judge hears all parking ticket cases. If you are disputing a twenty-dollar ticket, ask yourself, “Is this ticket really worth four hours of my time?”
Trials take place at the very end of each court session. They are often scheduled for “special” sessions because they can take many hours to complete depending on the amount of evidence and the number of witnesses.
Municipal Court & Pleading Guilty
Disorderly Persons convictions will stay on your record for five years.
Municipal ordinance convictions will stay on your record for two years.
Pleading guilty to a traffic ticket could result in losing your driving privileges.
Don’t let your impatience hurt you. Take your time and be informed before pleading guilty to anything.
Remember this: it’s ten times harder to undo a guilty plea than it is to resolve your case properly the first time around. During your first NJ court appearance, be patient & tell the judge that you would like to get a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may apply for a public defender.
For example, if you’ve been charged with a Simple Assault, your lawyer will review the evidence in your case & advise you of the following options:
You will have to admit what you did under oath. This option will leave you with a criminal conviction. It will stay on your record for 5 years before it can be expunged. And it will show up a background check.
Plead Guilty to a Downgraded Charge
This is one aspect of plea bargaining. Instead of admitting that you committed a simple assault against someone, we will work out a deal with the prosecutor where you plea guilty to a downgraded charge.
Go To Trial & Get Acquitted
This means that the Municipal court judge listened to all of the evidence & decided that you are not guilty of committing simple assault.
Go To Trial & Get Convicted
This means that the judge listened to all of the evidence & decided that you did commit simple assault.
Municipal Court - Do Not Miss It
Make certain to attend all court appearances.
New Jersey Municipal court judges have the power to issue warrants for your arrest if you fail to appear when summoned to do so.
People mistakenly believe that the charge will go away with time. This is not true.
We have represented many clients who were stopped for a minor traffic offense and once the police officer asks for identification, the fifteen-year-old-warrant pops up and that client ends up in jail.
Fines are increased, and the prosecutor is less willing to cooperate with a plea deal because you disrespected the court for so many years.
People try to argue (unsuccessfully) that their address changed, or they moved to another state.
Do the right thing and be responsible: show up to court!
To better help you, here’s the complete contact list for New Jersey Municipal Courts.
If you go to court alone and the Prosecutor is strongly recommending that you retain legal counsel, be polite and accept his suggestion.
At a minimum, most defense attorneys offer free thirty-minute consultations. Some attorneys even offer Free Case Evaluations. Take advantage of these free offerings and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
If you exercise your right to a trial and are found guilty but disagree with the court’s decision, you have 20 days to appeal the conviction.
Judges are human, and they can make mistakes. Once you file your notice of appeal, a different judge, from a different court (Superior Court), will hear the evidence anew. perhaps on appeal, the superior court will reverse the lower court’s decision.
Again, before you invest a lot of time and money pursuing an appeal alone, meet with us to see how we can help you.
If I'm convicted at trial, can I appeal?
Although appeals can be expensive, it’s definitely worth the money to try.
If you feel that you didn’t get a fair trial or that certain evidence was irrelevant, an appeal is a way to go.
I highly recommend that you hire an aggressive, criminal lawyer to represent you for your appeal.
There are specific steps that must be taken to (intelligently) file an appeal.
Please do not try to do this alone, get help!
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.
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.
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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.