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What to expect in municipal court

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2021 | Municipal Court

If you violate a city ordinance in New Jersey, you might have to appear in municipal court. Municipal court also handles some disorderly offenses and motor vehicle violations. If you do have to go there, you have certain rights.

Your ticket

The date and time on your ticket is the date of your arraignment, when you must appear in court and where you must either plead guilty or not guilty. It is possible to avoid going to court by paying some tickets prior to the date. For example, you might be able to pay your traffic ticket online. The municipal court clerk can tell you whether or not you can simply pay in other cases. Failing to pay or go to court could mean that a warrant for your arrest is issued.

Possible issues

It may be possible to change the date of arraignment in special circumstances. If you need a change or if you are unable to pay the fine, you should contact the court as soon as possible to discuss your situation.

Your plea

Going to court and pleading guilty means you give up your right to trial that you are entitled to under criminal law. You do have the chance to explain any extenuating circumstances, which the judge may consider when deciding on your penalty. You do not need an attorney if you want to plead not guilty although legal advice might be helpful. A not guilty plea will mean a court trial. You can change your plea prior to the trial.

Some violations that you might end up in municipal law court for may either seem minor or like charges that it would be difficult to defend against, such as DUI. However, you do have a right to a defense in those situations if you choose to exercise it, and while there may only be a small fine or similar penalty associated with some offenses, there can also be other repercussions. For example, multiple traffic violations could eventually lead to a license suspension, so having the assistance of legal counsel might be helpful.