What is the Process of a Criminal Case in Municipal Court?

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Have you or someone you know been arrested or received a summons or warrant and told you have to appear in municipal court to answer to the criminal matter? You need to know some things before you go to court in Toms River, Brick Township, Seaside Heights, Lacey Township, Manchester, Jackson, or another local municipal court in Ocean County, NJ. As experienced criminal defense attorneys serving all of Ocean County, we know the process in municipal courts inside and out and we can help. Keep reading for more information and please feel free to call our office anytime at (848) 238-2100 to speak with an attorney in a free consultation.

Arrested and Have Municipal Court in Toms River, What was I Charged with?

In New Jersey, there are crimes and quasi-criminal matters. As defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:1-4, Classes of offenses, an offense or crime is defined by the sentence in jail that you may receive if convicted or pleading guilty to. If the offense carries a possible county jail term of more than six months, the offense charged is considered a crime. If the offense charged is punishable by 6 months or less, it is likely a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense.

Disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses are not considered crimes under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-4 (b). Another term that many people use for disorderly persons offenses are misdemeanors. They are also considered “quasi-criminal” as there are serious consequences that may impact your liberty. If you are asked on an employment application if you have been convicted of a criminal offense, and you have a conviction for a disorderly persons offense on your record, this will absolutely appear on a background check. Some of the most common charges that lead to municipal court cases include:

Although a disorderly persons offense is not as serious as an indictable crime in New Jersey, this does not mean there are not serious consequences and you should go to court with the proverbial “blinders on.”

Do I Have to Appear in Court for a Criminal Charge in Brick?

If you received a notice to go to municipal court, you must attend. Some tickets may say that you must advise the court if you intend to plead guilty. Follow the instructions on the ticket. If the ticket/summons sets forth a date and time to appear, go on that date and time. If you have an attorney, the attorney will contact the court in writing and send a letter of appearance. This means that they are telling the court that he or she represents you. The attorney enters a not guilty plea on your behalf and requests discovery. The attorney will ask that the matter be set down for another date. This is helpful because no one wants to waste time going to court multiple times and have nothing happen.

What Happens When I Go to Court in Lacey Township?

If you are in court alone, you will go to court, get in line to speak with the prosecutor, and request some lesser offense than on your ticket. He may or may not give you discovery. If you are unrepresented, you should request the documents (police reports, statements, photographs, examinations, recordings etc.). If you decide to plead guilty, you should make certain of what you are pleading to. Of course, if you are seeking to get the best possible outcome in your case, attempting to handle it alone is unadvisable. An experienced lawyer will know what to look for in your discovery and may be able to get certain evidence deemed inadmissible, which can ultimately lead to a dismissal.

What if I Plead Guilty in Municipal Court in Manchester?

Understand what the prosecutor is recommending, what the fines are, and the potential jail time. If you plead, the judge will swear you in (you swear under oath to tell the truth), you tell the judge what it is that you think makes you guilty (he may ask you questions), and then you are sentenced to what the terms are under the agreement.
After you are sentenced, the court will likely send you to the payment window. You will have to request to make payments if you cannot afford to pay everything in its entirety. If you are sentenced to jail time, you will need to go immediately. If you are sentenced to driver’s license suspension, you will need to surrender your license at the time of your sentencing so it’s important to arrange a ride home.

Can I Take My Jackson Municipal Court Case to Trial?

It is important to remember, you do not have to plead guilty. You have the right to have a trial and for the municipality to prove you are guilty. This will not happen at your first court date and it does not happen in front of a jury. The municipal court judge will be the only person that decides your guilt. The state will present witnesses to try to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You and your attorney have the right to cross-examine these witnesses and to present witnesses and evidence on your own behalf.  Before a trial happens, you will be given another court date.

You or your attorney will review the discovery and may choose to file motions such as a motion to suppress the physical evidence, motions to compel discovery, or a motion to dismiss the charges. An experienced attorney may exhaust all possible avenues before a trial is had or a resolution reached.

Need a Lawyer for Ocean Township Municipal Court Case

If you have an upcoming court date in Municipal Court, you must know that you have rights and you must understand what your choices mean. As noted above, if convicted of a disorderly persons offense, you could spend up to 6 months in jail. Additionally, you can pay up to $1000 in fines, as well as mandatory state penalties, probation, and a possible loss of license. While a misdemeanor is not a felony crime, it will show up on a background check and impact any potential employment. Contact our firm of skilled Ocean County criminal lawyers at (848) 238-2100 to discuss how we can help you through the process. We understand the law, listen to your concerns, advise you accordingly, and will always work toward the best possible result.

William Proetta

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.