Serving Mercer County, Hunterdon County, and Somerset CountyAvailable 24/7 - Consultation is Free
Firm Logo

Municipal Court Defense

What is a New Jersey Municipal Court? Do I Need a Lawyer for a Municipal Court Case?

Flemington Municipal Court LawyerFlemington Municipal Court Lawyer

In New Jersey, nearly every municipality has its own court that has a limited jurisdiction to rule on motor vehicle violations, municipal ordinances, fish and game violations and minor charges that do not rise to the level of a crime called disorderly persons offenses. Many motor vehicle, local ordinance and fish and game violations do not require a court appearance—with some notable exceptions—and can be resolved by paying a fine, but criminal offenses always require a court appearance.

If I Choose to go to Trial in Municipal Court, Does a Jury Decide the Case?

If accused of any of these sorts of offenses or infractions, a person is not entitled to a trial by jury, but rather by a municipal court judge. The consequences are substantially less serious than in a superior court matter because the defendant is not exposed to incarceration in state prison, but that does not mean a case in municipal court should be taken lightly.

If I am Found Guilty in Municipal Court, Do I Have a Criminal Record?

While they do not count as criminal convictions, disorderly persons offenses (“DP”) like simple assault and petty disorderly persons offenses (“PDP”) like harassment appear on employer background checks and can interfere with obtaining a job. In addition, having had more than one such offense is problematic because prosecutors look at a defendant’s record when formulating a plea offer and a second or third offense may mean harsher treatment.

A disorderly persons offense exposes the defendant to:

  • up to six months in county jail
  • up to $1,000 fine

A petty disorderly persons offense exposes the defendant to:

  • up to 30 days in county jail
  • up to $500 fine

It is possible for a person accused of a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense to avoid being found guilty without taking the case to trial in some circumstances. If the defendant has no history of offenses, a diversionary program called a conditional discharge may be an option.

Are DWI and DUI Charges Considered Criminal Offenses?

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are both addressed in municipal court in New Jersey, they are not categorized as crimes but rather motor vehicle infractions. However, New Jersey’s laws are some of the strictest in the country and the consequences can include loss of license for a period of time, hundreds of dollars in fines and even incarceration on a first offense.

Challenging DWI and DUI charges in court is complicated and requires expertise. In addition to the standard penalties below, these matters can be further complicated if the DWI/DUI is alleged to occur in a school zone, if the driver was a parent or guardian with a passenger under the age of 17 in the car, or if the driver is underage. Additionally, hoping to avoid a DWI/DUI by refusing to take the breathalyzer test is a separate motor vehicle offense with similarly serious penalties attached. Hiring counsel is absolutely essential in these cases because the impact of a conviction on a driver’s record is far-reaching and long-lasting.

Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in TrentonBest Criminal Defense Attorneys in Trenton
Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in EdisonBest Criminal Defense Attorneys in Edison
Best DUI Lawyers in TrentonBest DUI Lawyers in Trenton