For many people in New Jersey, courts are a foreign concept. People do not sue or get sued; they do not commit crimes; they do not put their licenses in jeopardy. But if there is a first time for going to court, that court typically is a municipal court.
What Types of Cases Are Handled in Municipal Courts?
Municipal courts handle traffic tickets of every stripe, including drunk driving cases (which are treated as crimes in most states). Municipal courts deal with disorderly persons offenses, from simple assault to shoplifting to possession of small amounts of marijuana (the list is long and getting longer). These courts confront neighborhood disputes and ordinance violations, trying to resolve local controversies before they become serious problems. Municipal courts also process many aspects of indictable criminal matters, from initial appearance and arraignment to fixing the terms of release from custody. More often than not, you’ll need a lawyer in municipal court.
Large law firms rarely dabble in municipal court proceedings. They are too large, too expensive, and too inflexible to cope with the often chaotic and often personal aspect of municipal court practice. Small firms and solo practitioners specializing in municipal court need volume to maintain their business models. They advertise loudly and repeatedly. If you have received a traffic ticket, they may already have written you a letter soliciting your business.
At Furlong and Krasny, we are neither large, nor loud. We do not advertise for municipal court business. Jack Furlong and Scott Krasny have served as municipal court prosecutors and public defenders. All of our lawyers have extensive municipal court experience. Contact us to arrange a consultation regarding your municipal court matter. We are located in West Trenton, New Jersey, and serve clients in municipal matters throughout the state.
Various states use different nomenclature for characterizing those who drink and drive in violation of state laws. In some places it is known as driving while intoxicated; in others driving while impaired; in still others driving under the influence. Regardless of the terminology, knowing the penalties and successful defenses should be second nature to your lawyer.
We have defended thousands of DWI and refusal cases (refusing to provide a breath sample carries virtually the same penalties as DWI). We know the terrain and the best ways through it. If you’ve been cited for driving with alcohol or other drugs in your system, give us a call and we will guide you to safe harbor.
Disorderly Persons Offenses
New Jersey does not use the term “misdemeanor” in its criminal code. Non-felonies are “disorderly persons” or “quasi-criminal” cases. New Jersey actually has two classes of these cases: “Disorderly persons” and “petty disorderly persons” offenses. The former carry up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine; the latter up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Of particular import in addressing any “DP” or “PDP” offense is the risk of a collateral consequence. If you are a public employee charged with shoplifting, it may not seem like much, perhaps not serious enough to warrant hiring a lawyer. But shoplifting is a form of theft, an offense of “moral turpitude,” which can typically translate into automatic loss of employment. Deportation, loss of licensing and loss of contractual rights are other forms of collateral consequence you should understand fully before walking into municipal court. Give us a call. We’ll explain.
Some require court appearance; some don’t. Some carry motor vehicle points; some don’t. Some will cost you in terms of increased insurance rates or motor vehicle surcharges; some won’t. If you are confident you know the ins and outs of our increasingly complex motor vehicle code, you won’t need a lawyer for a traffic ticket. But if you have any doubts about your knowledge or your ability to navigate an acceptable result, whether from a car accident or a simple speeding summons, give us a call.
The larger point is this: Sometimes you need a lawyer in municipal court; sometimes you don’t. But things can go very wrong, both in the courtroom and out. The consequences of a guilty plea or finding in municipal court can catch up to you in ways you did not foresee months, even years, later. If you have any questions at all about your pending municipal court case, give us a call.
If you have been to municipal court and things did not go as you expected, whether with or without a lawyer at your side, you can still appeal the result. But be quick about it: You have 20 days from the date of conviction to file a notice of appeal. We handle municipal appeals routinely, and we can guide you through the process. If you weren’t satisfied with how things turned out and want to discuss your options going forward, give us a call . We know the ropes.