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The Law Office of John B. Brennan

Burlington | Camden | Atlantic | Gloucester

A Word From John Brennan

“Most people will encounter municipal court at some point. It is always valuable to have an attorney there who knows the ins and outs, and can help you navigate to the best possible outcome. Whether it is a motor vehicle violation, a small amount of drugs, or something more serious, I have the experience to help.”

NJ Municipal Court | Marlton, New Jersey

The typical New Jersey resident will never set foot in a Superior Court courtroom. In contrast, nearly every citizen will one day experience Municipal Court. Thus, municipal court represents the primary point of contact between the average citizen and New Jersey’s system of criminal justice.

Municipal Courts handle cases such as motor vehicle violations, local ordinance prosecutions and disorderly person’s offenses.

A typical session of a municipal court may include motions arraignments, and pleas, in addition to trials. The Court Rules require the municipal court to give priority to summary matters in which the defendant is represented by an attorney. The rules give the municipal judge the discretion to set the schedule for the remainder of each session but recommends the following order:

  • requests for adjournment
  • guilty pleas and first appearances
  • pretrial conferences
  • uncontested motions
  • contested matters with attorneys
  • matters involving noncompliance with a time payment schedule
  • contested matters without attorneys
  • matters to be placed on the record.

Municipal Court Penalties

Motor Vehicle Offenses

The Municipal Courts have jurisdiction over all motor vehicle offenses occurring within its jurisdiction. Motor vehicle offenses are how most people find themselves in municipal court. Each motor vehicle offense has its own penalties, most of which require the assessment of points and surcharges. These points and surcharges have an adverse effect on your ability to obtain car insurance and can make your rates go up substantially. It is always important to retain an attorney when charged with a motor vehicle offense that involves the assessment of points and surcharges. An attorney may be able to resolve your case in a manner that will not require the assessment of points.

I will work for you to get a resolution that takes into account your own unique circumstances.

Disorderly and petty disorderly person’s offenses

There are a number of crimes constituting “disorderly persons” offenses, including possessing a small amount of drugs, a simple assault, petty theft, etc. Under New Jersey law, a defendant convicted of a disorderly person’s offense or a petty disorderly person’s offense may be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment or both. The maximum prison sentence for a disorderly person’s offense is six months; the maximum sentence for a petty disorderly person’s offense is 30 days. The maximum fine for a disorderly person’s offense is $1,000. The maximum fine for a petty disorderly person’s offense is $500.

Often, one of the most impactful results of a disorderly person’s conviction is the suspension of one’s driver’s license. The court may impose a driver’s license suspension of up to two years if the defendant used a motor vehicle in the course of committing a disorderly or petty disorderly person’s offense. A license suspension of six months is mandatory for any person who uses a motor vehicle to engage in prostitution as a patron.

A driver’s license forfeiture is also mandatory for any person convicted of a disorderly or petty disorderly person’s offense involving the possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia. The law does allow the court to grant an exception to license forfeiture if there are “compelling circumstances,” defined as extreme hardship plus the unavailability of alternative transportation.

I can help you argue to the court why your circumstances are compelling and the loss of your license will impose extreme hardship.

Ordinance violations

Municipal ordinances cover a variety of topics, and can range anywhere from urinating in public, drinking in public, having an open container, or to disorderly conduct. The governing body of a municipality (town, community) is authorized to establish minimum and maximum sentences for ordinance violations. An ordinance may provide for one or more of the following penalties: a prison term of up to 90 days; a fine not to exceed $2,000; and a period of community service not exceeding 90 days. An ordinance may include a minimum penalty of a fine in an amount not to exceed $100.

An ordinance violation is not considered a criminal conviction, but is still something to avoid if possible.

Additional Penalties and Assessments

Restitution

Any person convicted of an “offense” which includes all disorderly and petty disorderly person’s offenses, may be sentenced to pay restitution. Restitution is a mandatory adjunct to a sentence of imprisonment or probation when the victim of an offense has suffered a loss, but only if the defendant has the ability to pay.

I will work with you to assess your ability to pay your court costs and argue your position to the court.

Mandatory Assessments

A $50 victims of crime compensation board penalty, $75 safe neighborhood services fund, and a $30 law enforcement officers training and equipment fund assessment must be imposed on every person convicted of a disorderly or petty disorderly person’s offense.

Conditional Dismissal and Conditional Discharge

The conditional dismissal and conditional discharge programs are great opportunities for first offenders to avoid having a criminal record.

Conditional Dismissal

Anyone charged with a disorderly or petty disorderly person’s offense may apply for the conditional dismissal program. To be eligible for the conditional dismissal program, the defendant must not have been previously convicted of any petty disorderly person’s offense, disorderly person’s offense or crime under any law of the United States or any State. Nor may the defendant have previously obtained a conditional dismissal, participated in the conditional discharge program or the pre-trial intervention program in Superior Court.

If approved, the court will place the defendant under a probation monitoring status for one year. At the end of the term the court may terminate the probation monitoring and dismiss the proceedings if the defendant has complied with the terms and conditions of the court and has not been convicted of any subsequent crimes or offenses. The dismissal is not deemed a conviction for purposes of determining disqualifications or disabilities that would otherwise be imposed by law after a petty disorderly person’s or disorderly person’s conviction. The entire record is eligible to be expunged six months after the completion of the one year monitoring period.

Conditional Discharge       

A conditional discharge is similar to a conditional dismissal. The difference being that a conditional discharge applies to first time drug offenders, while a conditional dismissal applies to all other first offenders. A person is eligible for a conditional discharge if they have not been previously convicted of any similar drug related offense in this or any other state.

Similar to a conditional dismissal, if the defendant is accepted they will be put on a monitoring period. If they successfully complete the program the charges will be dismissed and the matter will be eligible to be expunged six months after the monitoring period ends.

It is important to apply for a conditional discharge before conviction. The most significant consequence of a post-conviction application for a conditional discharge is the loss of driving privileges. In a post-conviction application for conditional discharge, the court is required to suspend the defendant’s driving privileges for between six months and two years. The court is not required to do this with a pre-conviction application.

Conclusion

New Jersey’s Municipal Courts are busy and chaotic places. Many times people feel as if they are just a number passing through an assembly line of rushed justice. It is important that every individual that comes in contact with the Municipal Courts in New Jersey understand that they have the full protection of the State and United States Constitution on their side.

If you are facing a Municipal Court charge I have the experience, the credentials and the compassion to help you with your legal problem.

A Word From John Brennan

“Most people will encounter municipal court at some point. It is always valuable to have an attorney there who knows the ins and outs, and can help you navigate to the best possible outcome. Whether it is a motor vehicle violation, a small amount of drugs, or something more serious, I have the experience to help.”

New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Attorney

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