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In New Jersey, many alleged violations of the law are addressed in one of the over 500 municipal courts throughout the state. Too often, however, those called to face charges in municipal court mistakenly believe that the court’s limited jurisdiction means that the consequences of a conviction are equally limited. This can be a grave mistake. Taking municipal court violations lightly can lead to heavy burdens on your rights and your wallet. That is why you should dissuade yourself of the notion that these are “minor” matters and call an experienced New Jersey municipal court lawyer to discuss your case.
Perhaps the most common cases heard in New Jersey municipal courts are traffic violations, such as speeding, failing to have the proper license or insurance documentation, or reckless driving. But these courts are also responsible for addressing a wide range of other matters, including more serious charges such as driving while intoxicated. You will also appear before a municipal court judge if you are charged with such infractions as:
If you receive a traffic ticket or citation to appear in municipal court, it can be tempting to dismiss the matter as a minor inconvenience. It may seem like the easy way out is to simply plead guilty to the offense, pay the fine and be on your way. You may believe that you can fight the charges on your own and go toe-to-toe with experienced and strong-minded prosecutors who are determined to obtain a conviction.
Those are decisions you may quickly come to regret.
Sometimes, more serious charges such as robbery, auto theft or assault are originally filed in municipal court but subsequently transferred to superior court where the consequences of a conviction can be significantly greater and include considerable time in jail.
DWI convictions are unsurprisingly harsh as well, and the fallout from a conviction can go far beyond hefty fines and a loss of driving privileges, especially if someone is hurt or killed. However, even traffic and disorderly persons offenses can leave you with large fines, points on your driving record which can lead to increased insurance premiums, jail time, and a criminal record that could negatively affect employment and other opportunities.
By reaching out to a New Jersey municipal court lawyer, you can get sound advice on how best to proceed, explore your options, and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. If you are a first-time offender charged with a minor disorderly persons offense, your lawyer can help you avoid a criminal conviction and criminal record by diverting you into the Conditional Dismissal Program.
In addition to the laws of the Federal Government and the State of New Jersey, citizens can also be charged with violating the laws of the towns and cities in which they live. These local laws are known as municipal ordinances, and they cover a wide variety of topics. You might be charged with an ordinance violation for failing to keep your home or yard in good condition, or for being too loud or disruptive in public areas.
Most people are probably not familiar with the ordinances where they live, so it is all too easy to accidentally violate them. If you are charged with an municipal ordinance violation, you can be assessed significant fines and penalties, and even jail time. Municipal ordinance violations appear on your permanent criminal record, and could cause you to lose your job or have trouble getting a job. And since these violations are tried in municipal court, you will not have the opportunity to present your side to a jury.
In New Jersey, as in most other states, the possession or sale of most drugs (also called Controlled Dangerous Substances, or CDS) is illegal. This includes the possession or sale of street drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin, as well as prescription medications like oxycodone, Xanax, and Adderall if you don’t have a valid prescription.
Possession of certain drugs like marijuana in small amounts is a disorderly persons offense and is tried before a judge in municipal court. Possession of more serious street drugs like cocaine or heroin is an indictable (felony) crime. Penalties depend mostly on the quantity of drugs recovered by the police, and range from a fine of a few hundred dollars in the least serious cases to up to twenty (20) years of jail time in more serious ones. Convictions for drug crimes, even minor ones, can also result in the loss of a person’s driver’s license.
At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, we do not believe that there is any such thing as a minor offense. Several members of our legal team are former prosecutors who have seen first-hand the impact that municipal court convictions can have on the lives of those who believe that these matters are not worth worrying about.
Contact us online or by phone at 1-877-435-6371 to speak with an experienced New Jersey municipal court lawyer today.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.