Additional Resources for DWI and Other Serious Cases

An Info Guide to Your Municipal Court

WAYS TO HELP YOURSELF IN COURT

  • Be on time
  • Bring court documents
  • Be respect respectful to court employees
  • Be neat and clean
  • Be honest
  • Speak clearly
  • Be brief and to the point
  • Be relaxed and patient
  • Be careful of your attitude and don’t lose your temper
  • Bring someone who can interpret if possible
  • When in court, always be quiet

NOTICE OF ADDRESS CHANGES

All parties to a particular case, whether you are the defendant or complainant, must notify the court of any change, correction or addition to (for example, an apartment number) your current address. All notices, sent by the courts are sent to the address of record. If your address is not correct or completely you may not be notified of your court date which could result in a bench warrant being issued (if you are the defendant) or dismissal of your case (if you are the complainant). DO NOT MERELY RELY ON HAVING YOUR MAIL FORWARDED.

As to traffic offenses, please be sure that any change of address is made with both Motor Vehicle Services and the Court.

When you need to correct or change your address with the court, it MUST BE DONE IN WRITING. Change of Address forms are available at the court house.

COURT CONTACT OR CORRESPONDENCE

The individual directly involved with the case, rather than a relative or friend, should contact the court. This will help speed inquiries and allow the court staff to better serve you.

It is imperative when writing or calling to have your case number available. Please put your case number on all correspondences you are sending to the court – especially payments.

If you do not have your case number, please be sure to list your full name, including any other name you may have used, your date of birth, address that was listed on the complaint or ticket at the time that matter was disposed of, the type of charges filed, the date those charges were filed, the last date you appeared in court and if you are the defendant, your driver’s license number.

PAYMENT OF TRAFFIC OR CRIMINAL FINES OR PENALTIES

Payments may be made by mail by sending a check or money order to the Court. Please do not send cash. All checks or money orders should be made out to the respective municipal court. Many courts accept credit cards. It is important to remember to list the case numbers on your check or money order so that your account (on that case) will be properly credited.

If you are sending cash payment with someone else, please be sure to let him or her know what the case number is. All persons making payments in person at the Payments Windows will receive a receipt. If you are paying by mail or a drop box and want a receipt, enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your payment and we will mail it to you.

FOREIGN OR SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS

Interpreting services can be provided upon notification that a particular defendant or complainant requires an interpreter. Please notify court staff as soon as possible of this need and the type of interpreter services required. Please be sure to include in your notification, any special language dialect required

YOUR RIGHTS IN MUNICIPAL COURTS

The Municipal Court(s) in the entire State of New Jersey wants you to receive a full and fair hearing. Accordingly, you will find the following explanations helpful.

BASIC RIGHTS OF A DEFENDANT IN THE MUNICIPAL COURT

  • You are presumed innocent until prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • You have the right to be represented by an attorney.
  • You may retain a private attorney or may apply for appointment of the Public Defender.
  • You have the right to obtain a postponement for good cause.
  • You have the right to decide whether or not to testify in your own defense.
  • You have the right to call witnesses or present evidence in your defense.
  • You have the right to appeal if you are not satisfied with the outcome in Court.

COURT SESSIONS

When you arrive at the courthouse, you should go directly to the appropriate courtroom. If you are not sure what courtroom you are supposed to be in, please see one of the Court Attendants and they will direct you.

Prior to the start of the court session, the clerk who works with the Judge on the bench will call the calender list. As your name is called, it is important that you identify yourself to the bench clerk. If your name was not called, it is important that you let the clerk know this as well. If you arrive late, it is important for you to remain in the court room until your case is called or the judge asks if there are any other matters.

All court proceedings are tape recorded as required by Court Rules. It is important for you when asked to speak, to identify yourself and to speak slowly and directly into the designated microphone. It is essential for persons both in and out of the courtroom to remain as quiet as possible so that the tapes will be clear.

Each case is heard and considered separately, so it is impossible to predict the length of time you will be in court. At the beginning of the court session, the Judge will give an opening statement explaining the court procedures and general rights in Municipal Court proceedings.

INDICTABLE CHARGES

The more serious criminal offenses, called indictable offenses are scheduled for an “arraignment or first appearance” in the Municipal Court. The charges will be explained and your right to an attorney will be discussed. These charges are forwarded to the County Prosecutor.

The County Prosecutor will decided whether to present the case to the Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury votes an indictment, the case will be heard in the Superior Court. The County Prosecutor can decided to return the case to the Municipal Court by amending or downgrading the original charge to a less serious one. Your notice to appear at the Musical Court on any such case will be mailed to you. The County Prosecutor can also decide to administratively dismiss the charges.

ARRAIGNMENTS OR FIRST APPEARANCES

The first time the defendant will appear before the Judge to be advised of the charges filed against him or her and what the possible penalties can be is called an arraignment or first appearance. In some instances, only the defendant will be required to appear at the first date. If this is the case, an opportunity to present both defendants’ and complainants case will be scheduled for a future date.

In other instances both the defendant and complainant are noticed to appear on that first date. If this is the case, the Judge may proceed with a plea or a trial. At this appearance, the Judge may also order all parties to Mediation.

MEDIATION

The judge may order the defendant and the complainant to try to settle their differences through mediation. This is a confidential process in which a court appointed trained mediator would meet with both parties to try to resolve your dispute. The judge will decide if your case is eligible for mediation.

If mediation is ordered, all parties will be directed to the Information windows at the court, where they will receive a copy of the mediation order and information about their mediation date. If a settlement is reached, the mediator will notify the Court and no further appearances will be necessary unless the settlement is violated. If a settlement is not reached, you will be notified by the Court by mail of your new court date.

WHEN A COURT APPEARANCE IS REQUIRED

All criminal matters will require a court appearance. Certain serious traffic violations also require a court appearance. For traffic or other violations if the “Court Appearance Required” both is checked, you will be required to appear in court even if you want to plead guilty. This is true even if the violation is listed on the Statewide or Local Violations Bureau Schedule.

TRAFFIC TICKET

You will also be required to appear in court if you:

  • wish to have a trial.
  • the personal injury box on your ticket is checked.

PLEA OF GUILTY BY PAYMENT

Certain type of offenses like local ordinances, fish and game violations and payable traffic violations may be paid at the Court or by mail without having to make an appearance before the Judge. If you wish to plead guilty and give up your right to a hearing for such a violation, you may do so as long as the court appearance box is not checked and the violation is listed on the Statewide or local violations Bureau Schedule. If the penalty is not listed on the back of the ticket, please contact the court office.

To dispose of your case, complete the APPEARANCE, PLEASE AND WAIVE section on the back of your ticket and bring it or mail it together with payment in the correct amount to the court. Payments received after the appearance date listed may be assessed additional penalties.

ENTERING A PLEA OF NOT GUILTY IN A TRAFFIC,
FISH AND GAME OR BOATING CASE.

If you intend to please not guilty to the offense charged in the summons and you want to have a trial, you must notify the Court of your intention at least three (3) days prior to the date listed on the front, bottom of the summons.

If you fail to make this notification, it may be necessary for you to make two appearances because you will not be listed on the trial calendar and the trial preparations will not be complete.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE DEFENDANT WISHES
TO PLEAD GUILTY. (in court appearances)

When you plead guilty, you are giving up your right to have a trial. You admit that you have violated the law. The Judge will ask you questions to be sure that the plea is acceptable to the Court.

The arresting officer or complaint may explain the circumstances of the violation and the defendant may explain any extenuating circumstances. The Judge will then sentence the defendant.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE DEFENDANT WISHES
TO PLEASE NOT GUILTY. (court appearances required)

If you plead not guilty, the Judge may have the case rescheduled for a trial date. The Judge will ask you if you are going to have an attorney represent you. You may represent yourself without the services of an attorney. That is called Pro se. You may tell the Judge that you are also going to hire a private attorney.

TRIAL DATES

At the trial date, the Judge will take testimony from all witnesses under oath. There are no jury trials in the Municipal Court. The defendant and his attorney, if represented, will sit at one table. The Prosecutor will sit at the other table. Witnesses may be asked to stay outside the courtroom until it is their turn to testify. The Prosecutor will go first and will present any witnesses or evidence needed to prove the charge against the defendant. Each witness will either swear or affirm to tell the truth. As each witness for the prosecution testifies, the defendant or his attorney, if represented, will have an opportunity to ask questions about what was testified to. This is called cross-examination.

Once the prosecution is finished, it will be the defendant’s turn. The defendant can present witnesses or other evidence to dispose the Prosecutor’s case. The defendant does not have to provide any information and does not have to testify. It is up to the prosecution to prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

When all the witnesses have testified, the defendant or his attorney may tell the Judge why the case not proven against the defendant.

The Judge after hearing all of the testimony and witnesses will make the decision whether the case has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Judge finds the defendant “Not guilty.” The case is over.

If the Judge finds the defendant “Guilty,” the Judge will sentence the defendant.

SENTENCING

When you plead guilty or are convicted of a criminal, traffic or ordinance violation after a trial, the Judge will determine your sentence in Court. At sentencing, the Judge will explain to the defendant the type of sentence and the provisions of that sentence. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU LISTEN CAREFULLY AND WRITE DOWN THE PROVISIONS OF THE SENTENCE.

It is important to raise any issues with respect to your sentence with the Judge at this time. Once the Judge authorizes any provision of the sentence, it is so ordered.

Full compliance will be expected. Failure to comply with the provisions of a sentence, for example, failure to report to trial, or failure to comply with the Intoxicated Driver School, will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest. Failing to pay a fine even on a criminal offense will result in the suspension of your driving privileges in New Jersey.

FINES, COSTS AND OTHER PENALTIES

The Judge will list the different fines, costs, penalties and assessments you will be responsible for paying. The Judge will expect payment in full. This is your opportunity to discuss a payment plan with the Judge if you cannot pay the fine in full. If the Judge authorizes a time payment agreement, full compliance with the payment plan will be expected.

TYPES OF SENTENCES

The Judge may order a jail sentence, probation, drivers license suspensions, attendance at special schools or community service.

TRAFFIC VIOLATION POINTS

The number of points accompanying any traffic violation is determined by Motor Vehicle Services. The court does not tally nor track the number of points of any given offense. For any information covering points you should contact Motor Vehicle Services.

For defendants who are not New Jersey residents, you should contact your own state’s Division of Motor Vehicles for information regarding points or the effects of surcharges.

MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS

Financial and other personal losses arising out a traffic accident are not heard or considered by the Municipal Court. Those losses may be pursued in civil court.

PARKING TICKETS

Partial payment plans are not available for payment of parking tickets. If your driving privileges have been suspended for failure to satisfy a parking violation, the suspension will remain in effect until the summons is complete satisfied.

RESTORATION OF DRIVING PRIVILEGES

If your driving privileges are suspended as a result of a non payment of fines, penalties or assessment, you can have them restored upon payment in full of the amount of this Court and a payment of your restoration fee to Motor Vehicle services.

You will be required to provide proof to Motor Vehicle Services of your payment. Upon request, a receipt can be provided to your for this purpose. Please note that if you are suspended as a result of a sentence or are also suspended as a result of another court’s action, you will remain suspended until all the suspensions requirements have been met.

APPEALS OF CASES

If a defendant does not agree with the outcome of the case, the defendant may appeal to the Superior Court. Representation by an attorney is not required for an appeal. The defendant can request that the sentence imposed be stayed pending the appeal. The Municipal Judge will decide whether to stay the sentence.

An appeal must be filed within twenty (20) days of the Judge’s decision. Forms are available at the Municipal Court to initiate an appeal without represent of an attorney A non-refundable filing fee of $75 payable to the Superior Court of New Jersey, transcript deposit of (Usually around $300) payable to the respective Municipal Court.

EXPUNGEMENTS

An expungement is the process by which records of arrests and/or convictions are destroyed and sealed after the expiration of a pre-set time period. This is usually a one time opportunity.

Attorney representation is not required to file for an expungement. A copy of the sample forms are available at the Municipal Court if you wish to file for an expungement yourself.

Please note that once an expungement has been ordered, the records are sealed however, for background checks certain law enforcement agencies may still be able to access the existence of the charge or conviction. You should check with an attorney if you have any questions. Additional information is available under New jersey Statutes 2C:52-1. Municipal ordinances convictions can be expunged after two, and regular disorderly persons offenses, commonly known as 2C convictions can be expunged only after five years from the date of conviction.

POSTPONEMENT POLICY

A postponement is asking for a delay of your court date for a specific reason. Requests for postponement of your court date must be received in writing at least days prior to your scheduled date. Requests with less than days notice may be approved if all parties can be contacted. If you are represented, your attorney will make the request.

Your request must include your name, the ticket or case number the date scheduled and time, description of the charge(s) and any cross complaints or co-defendants with their case numbers and dates and a telephone number where the court can reach you. You must also included a detailed description of the reason why you are requesting a postponement.

A copy of your request must be sent to the Municipal Prosecutor and any other lawyer that may be involved. A request for a postponement does not automatically mean you will receive one. To find out if your postponement has been granted by the Judge, contact the appropriate scheduling clerk – either criminal or traffic.

The Municipal Prosecutor and Defense Attorneys are responsible for notifying their respective clients and/or witnesses of the postponement. All requests for postponements received with hours will be attached to the case and reviewed by the Judge while on the bench.

BAIL PROCEDURE

The purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant’s appearance (or the appearance of the person for who bail is posted) at each and every court appearance. Bail for criminal or traffic offenses may be posted at one of the locations listed below. The defendant must be present to post bail, (therefore it will be necessary to ascertain the location of the defendant. That location will determine where you will post the bail. Bail may be posted at the following locations:

  • The Municipal Court in the jurisdiction in which the defendant resides.
  • The Municipal Court where the case was initiated.
  • The Municipal Court where the case is being heard.
  • The Police Department where the defendant is arrested.

PRIOR TO COMING TO POST BAIL, YOU SHOULD

  • Check the location of the defendant to determine the location you will go to, to post the bail (If the defendant has multiple bails or warrants you may be able to post all of the bails at the one location).
  • Find out the amount of the bail and any provisions of the bail and find out whether any filing fees are required.

WHEN YOU COME TO POST BAIL, YOU SHOULD

  • Bring the exact amount of bail money required.
  • Bring proper identification.

Checks and money orders are accepted for bail. They must not be starter checks or third party checks. The checks must be made out to the respective Court or the bail or warrant. The identification of the person posting bail must match the name and address printed on the check. Checks are not permitted to be accepted on certain charges.

In certain instances, a bench warrant may be ordered for a defendant who fails to comply with one or more provisions of their sentence, necessitating the posting of bail.

If a defendant fails to appear for any court date, bail money posted may be forfeited and a bench warrant for the person’s arrest may be ordered by the Judge. It is essential that the person who is related on bail know the date and time of his/her appearance is there.

If a defendant or the surety (the person who posted the bail money and signs the bail receipt as surety is the legal owner of the money the defendant can also be the surety) address changes, it his/her responsibility to notify the Court in writing of any changes. Specific procedures for refund and assignment of bail may be obtained by the calling the court.

A defendant can always have his bail applied to pay his/her court fines. A defendant can’t have the bail applied towards his/her fines, if someone else posted the bail. That person must individually sign over the bail.