New Jersey Municipal Court
With over 500 Municipal Courts in New Jersey, it is no wonder the Municipal Court system has been described as the most important courts in the State. Most citizens will experience the criminal justice system through the Municipal Court. These courts have jurisdiction to hear, among other things, traffic violations, including DWI, petty disorderly and disorderly persons offenses.
Each municipal court has at least one judge (some courts have multiple). Most municipal court judges are part-time judges, who must balance their busy private law practices with their judicial duties. These judges are bound by the rules of judicial conduct and must follow court rules, evidence rules, and case law precedent. These judges are NOT experts and must often rely on the parties appearing before them to argue legal, scientific, constitutional, evidentiary, and procedural issues. Some of these judges have had little no municipal court or criminal court experience. The Municipal Court Judge has the authority to impose fines, suspend licenses, and impose jail sentences, along with other statutory penalties.
Here are some other facts about Municipal Courts:
- There is no right to a jury trial in municipal court. The case will be decided by a judge.
- Strictly enforced rules prohibit most plea bargaining of DWI and Drug Possession/Paraphernalia charges.
Defendants who appear in Municipal Court have the following rights:
- The right to be informed of the charge against them;
- The right to remain silent;
- The right to an attorney;
- The right to a trial, where the state must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt;
- The right to confront witnesses through cross-examination;
- The right to call witnesses;
- The right to a speedy trial.
The key to success in the Municipal Court System is to have an experienced attorney with you who knows how the system works and how to get results.