Who Is Afraid of Municipal Court?
It is through the Municipal Courts that most people come into contact with the judicial system, either as a defendant, a victim, or a witness. Since most people will never appear before another court, it is from their experience in the Municipal Courts that most people base their conclusions about the quality of justice in New Jersey.
Municipal Courts are considered courts of limited jurisdiction, having responsibility for motor vehicle and parking tickets, minor criminal-type offenses (for example, simple assault and bad checks), municipal ordinance offenses (such as dog barking or building code violations) and other offenses, such as fish and game violations. A Municipal Court usually has jurisdiction only over cases that occur within the boundaries of its municipality. Many serious criminal cases, such as robbery, auto theft, or assault, start out as complaints filed in the Municipal Court but those cases are transferred to the Superior Court located at the county courthouse.
Thousands of people a day enter the hallways of Municipal Courts throughout New Jersey and the country. It can be scary for most people because no one really tells you what to do, what will happen and what is best. That is where I come in. As an attorney I am already familiar with how the court is run and the penalties that each offense has. Also, under Court Rules attorney’s go before people unrepresented. This helps to cut down on the time one has to be in the Court.
In essense everyone is their for one reason. To see the prosecutor and get the best deal possible. In Municipal Court there is the possiblity of being arrested on certain offenses, but it is rare. The penalities are usually fines, points on your license and/or loss of license.
The Court can sometimes be a very unorganized mess so be patient when you are there. The only advice I can offer is that you have all the same rights one has in Superior Court. The right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and yes public defenders are available. You also have the right to a trial and confront witnesses against you. Never let the system push you through just to get things done. You have rights and deserve to be heard.
Like I always tell people, “When the legal system has you on the ropes I will be your one- two punch.”
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