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I was stopped by the police and given a traffic ticket in NJ. What do I do first?

A: First, you need to decide if you are able to handle your violation on your own or do you need to hire an attorney. If you are hiring an attorney, you should do so quickly. You should select an attorney that provides municipal court defense in the same county that your ticket was issued. An attorney within the same county will be familiar with the court, Judge and Prosecutor in your specific court. This will be very helpful in getting you the best outcome.

I don’t know if I can afford an attorney. What should I do?

A: If you want to fight your ticket, you will need to contact the court and tell them you are pleading “not guilty”. Your ticket will have an appearance date on the bottom. You want to take note of that date and make sure that you do not miss any scheduled court hearings. Otherwise, the Judge will issue a warrant for your failure to appear in court.

What happens when I go to court?

A: First, you need to check in at the clerk’s window. Each court is a little different as to where you “let them know you are here”. When you arrive at court, you can ask the court employees what their check in procedure is in that specific court. If you have decided to represent yourself in Municipal Court, you will have an opportunity to speak with the prosecutor to try to explain your side of the case. If you and the prosecutor can not reach an agreement or plea, your case will proceed to trial. If all necessary parties are present in court, the Judge may order that your trial proceed that day.

What if I change my mind and I want to get an attorney to represent me in Municipal Court. What do I do?

A: If you have decided to retain a lawyer to represent you and you are presently in court without an attorney, you should inform the prosecutor that you want a short period of time to hire an attorney. A Judge will then decide if you can have additional time to do this. If you have already appeared in court and have a new date scheduled, you should contact a lawyer immediately to retain him/her. The attorney you hire will notify the court that you are now being represented by counsel.

What happens in a Municipal Court trial?

A: A Judge will hear testimony from both sides as to the facts of the case. After each side has had the opportunity to present evidence and testimony, the Judge will make a decision as to whether or not the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty in Municipal Court, the Judge will then sentence you and impose fines, penalties, jail, and/or restitution.

Can I appeal the decision of a Municipal Court Judge?

A: Yes. You have 20 days to appeal a decision. If you are going to represent yourself in the appeal, you should speak with one of the court’s employees about obtaining an appeal packet. Most courts have some information available to give you to assist you in figuring out the process. All appeals from a Municipal Court decision are filed with the Superior Court in the county in which your court is located.

What happens on the first court date in Municipal Court?

A: When you appear in court for the first time, the Judge will advise you what you are charged with and what the potential penalties can be. The Judge will ask if you are pleading guilty or not guilty and if you wish to obtain an attorney. You will then receive a new court date.

What does it mean that my matter is being sent to the county prosecutor?

A: That means that you have been charged with an indictable offense (very serious charge) and it is not handled at the Municipal Court level. The Municipal Court will send the matter to the county prosecutor’s office for review. The county prosecutor may decide to keep the matter at the Superior Court level. They may decide to send the matter back down to the Municipal Court to handle. If you are charged with an indictable offense, you should speak with an attorney right away. A lawyer can make a determination if you are better off having your matter at the county level or back in municipal court. An attorney can also try to keep the matter at whichever level was determined to be in your best interest. Depending on the facts of your case, sometimes it will remain at the county level.