New Jersey Municipal Offense Lawyers
In New Jersey, municipal courts have jurisdiction over disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses that have taken place within their jurisdiction. More serious criminal matters such as robbery, auto theft, and aggravated assault are often initially filed in the Municipal Court but are later transferred to the Superior Court located at the county courthouse. Even though municipal courts only hear relatively minor criminal matters, pleading guilty can still result in consequences that could have been avoided by hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer, including jail time and a permanent criminal record.
The experienced municipal offense lawyers at Shebell & Shebell fight vigorously for every one of our clients because we understand the damaging consequences of a criminal conviction. We are often able to achieve a partial victory for our clients by keeping more serious indictable offenses in municipal court by getting the charges downgraded. We have successfully represented clients in municipal courts throughout New Jersey, including Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties.
The Municipal Court Process
The municipal court system in New Jersey is governed by its own set of legal procedures. Municipal court cases proceed much more quickly than cases heard in Superior Court. A defendant can be arrested, appear in court, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty all on the same day. The prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain, and it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer before accepting. Even if it seems like a good offer, there may be unforeseen consequences, and an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to get your charges dismissed entirely. For any municipal court matter, you have the right to a hearing and the right to be represented by an attorney.
In certain situations, our lawyers may be able to keep an indictable offense (felony) in municipal court by having the charge downgraded to a disorderly persons offense. This decision comes with advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, a municipal court judge is the finder of fact and determines whether you are guilty or not (as opposed to a jury, which fulfills these roles in Superior Court). On the other hand, the maximum sentence in municipal court is limited to six months in county jail, plus fines, surcharges, restitution and other sanctions. If the case is heard in Superior Court you could face much more serious penalties including greater fines and prison time.
What Types of Crimes Are Adjudicated in Municipal Court?
Common examples of disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses include:
- Simple assault
- Disorderly conduct
- Resisting arrest
- Possession of small amounts of marijuana
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Shoplifting (under $200)
- Writing bad checks (fraud)
- Certain juvenile offenses, such as possession of a fake I.D. or underage possession of alcohol
- Disturbing the peace
- Excessive noise
- Public intoxication
- Motor vehicle offenses and parking tickets
- Fish and game violations
Penalties for violations of municipal ordinances can include up to 90 days in county jail, fines of up to $2,000, and up to 90 days of community service (N.J.S.A. 40:49-5). Although there is a presumption of non-incarceration for first time offenders, being sentenced to jail is a very real possibility if you have any prior convictions. Multiple convictions for certain criminal offenses such as shoplifting can result in mandatory jail time.
If you are convicted of a motor vehicle offense, you may get points on your driving record and/or insurance points, resulting in higher premiums that you will have to pay for years. For certain offenses, you could potentially lose your driver’s license.
Arrests and convictions for disorderly persons offenses will appear on your criminal record. This can result in the loss of your job, and prevent you from obtaining gainful employment in the future. Convictions for municipal ordinance violations generally do not appear on one’s criminal record. Our lawyers may be able to get your charges downgraded to a municipal ordinance violation so that your good name remains clear.
The Effective Municipal Offense Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Have Helped Countless Clients Throughout New Jersey
Our contacts throughout the municipal court system and skill in negotiating favorable outcomes can help put your case on track for dismissal or eventual expungement through placement in a conditional discharge program. We have helped countless clients get indictable offenses (felonies) downgraded to disorderly persons offenses, and disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) downgraded to municipal ordinance violations (which do not get placed on your criminal record). We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County, including Howell, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Wall, Union Beach and Neptune. For a free consultation, call us at 866-957-5237 or contact us online today.