Hunterdon County Criminal Defense Lawyers
Municipal Ordinance Violations
In New Jersey, municipal ordinance violations are lesser or quasi-criminal offenses, unlike serious criminal charges. State statutes govern municipal courts and have limited jurisdiction and authority over civil and criminal offenses committed within the local city or township. Municipal courts are also responsible for enforcing city ordinances. Violations are heard in municipal courtrooms.
What Types of Cases Are Handled in Municipal Court?
Common municipal offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Boating violations
- Noise regulations
- Underage drinking
- Open container violations
- Local zoning violations
- Public urination
- Traffic tickets
- Public intoxication
- Public nuisances
It is important to note that criminal offenses in New Jersey are categorized as disorderly persons offenses and indictable offenses, which are more serious than municipal ordinance violations. Disorderly persons offenses resemble misdemeanors in other jurisdictions.
Are Court Appearances for Municipal Charges Mandatory?
Many municipal offenses can be handled out of the courtroom. However, if you were assigned a court date and a citation, you are expected to appear in municipal court. Citations typically include a checkbox stating “court appearance required” that officers can check when issuing the citation. If checked, you are required to appear. It is best to consult a lawyer regarding a possible defense if your case requires you to appear in court.
Even if you intend to plead guilty to the charges, you cannot pay fines in lieu of appearing in court when attendance is mandatory. Failing to attend the court hearing may result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest, and the consequences of your original charges may be more severe.
If you wish to plead guilty and “court appearance required” is not checked on your citation, you can often pay the fine online, by mail, or at the court office without attending a court hearing.
What Can I Expect at Municipal Court?
At your first municipal court hearing, the judge will explain the procedures and advise you of your rights, the potential penalties, and options for how you wish to proceed. You will be asked to respond to the charges with one of three options:
- Plead guilty: If you admit guilt, the judge will rule and impose a sentence after determining you understand the consequences of pleading guilty.
- Plead not guilty: If you choose to plead not guilty, the trial may take place immediately or be scheduled for a later date.
- Request an adjournment: If you want to hire a lawyer or apply for a public defender, requesting an adjournment allows the judge to reschedule your court date to provide you time to do so and prepare for trial.
After trial, the judge will provide a ruling once both sides have presented their cases.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
Lawyers thoroughly understand the local laws, procedures, and court system and can explain your rights and provide objective advice regarding your options. If you are faced with a municipal offense, our Hunterdon County criminal defense lawyers can do the following:
- Provide legal advice to assess your case’s strengths, weaknesses, and likely outcomes to help you understand the legal process;
- Develop a sound defense strategy based upon the circumstances of your case;
- File applicable legal motions with the court, such as dismissing charges or suppressing evidence;
- Negotiate for a lesser charge, plea bargain, diversion program, or alternative sentencing for a more favorable outcome;
- Represent you during any court proceedings;
- Advocate for fair sentencing if you plead guilty to the charges or are convicted;
Can a Municipal Offense Be Expunged in New Jersey?
A lawyer’s primary responsibility is to protect your rights, ensure you are treated fairly, and obtain the best possible outcome. Sometimes, they can also help you have your record sealed or expunged once your case is successfully resolved or you have completed your sentence requirements. Having your record sealed or expunged provides better opportunities for securing employment, loans, housing, and other activities in which background checks may be required.
Hunterdon County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Tune Law Group, LLC Represent Clients Charged With Municipal Ordinance Violations
If you have been charged with a municipal ordinance offense, you want an experienced lawyer with knowledge of the local judicial system on your side. Contact our Hunterdon County criminal defense lawyers at Tune Law Group, LLC. Call 908-434-1061 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. Located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, we serve clients in and around Hunterdon County, Monmouth County, Whitehouse, and Tewksbury.