What is Municipal Court?
The municipal court is a local court created by state law, whose jurisdiction is confined to the city or community in which it is located. Practice and procedures are governed by New Jersey Rules of Court. The Municipal Court Judge is responsible for overseeing the administration of his or her municipal court. The Assignment Judge of the Superior Court (whose office is located in Mount Holly) is responsible for overseeing the administration of all of the municipal courts in Burlington County.
There are thirty-nine municipal courts in Burlington County. Each municipality appoints its own Municipal Court Judge. Other court personnel may include the Court Administrator, Deputy Court Administrator, Violations Clerk, and Sound Recorder.
What Types of Cases are Heard in Municipal Court?
Cases heard in municipal court are divided into four general categories:
More serious offenses, known as indictable offenses, are sent to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office. The County Prosecutor decides whether to present the case to the Grand Jury or to return the case to the municipal court as a less serious offense (i.e., a downgrade offense).
- Violations of motor vehicle and traffic laws
- Violations of disorderly and petty disorderly persons offenses (criminal cases which may result in fines or jail)
- Violations of Fish and Game laws, Parks and Forests, Weights and Measures, SPCA, and Boating Regulations
- Violations of municipal ordinances (local laws)
When is a Court Appearance Required?
A court appearance is ALWAYS required in criminal matters, such as assault, shoplifting, harassment, drug charges, etc. In traffic or other matters, if "court appearance required" is checked on the ticket, you must appear in court at the time and place indicated, even if you wish to plead guilty. If "court appearance required" is not checked on the traffic ticket, you must still appear in court if:
- The charge is not listed on the Statewide Violations Schedule
- Personal injury is involved
- You wish to have a trial
What Happens on Your Day In Court?
It is very important that you arrive in court on the day and time stated on your ticket, summons, subpoena or court notice. Before the session starts, or once court begins, roll call is generally taken. If you arrive late, or if your name is not called, you should notify court personnel immediately.
If the defendant does not appear, the Municipal Court Judge will advise all witnesses when they may leave. Witnesses will be notified through the mail when they are to return. A warrant may be issued for the defendant who fails to appear, and his/her driving privileges may be suspended.
All municipal court proceedings are tape recorded. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone in the courtroom to remain quiet until it is their turn to speak. The length of time you will be in court depends on many things. Some cases take longer than others. Please be patient so that the court may give each case the time and attention it deserves.
At the beginning of the court session, the Municipal Court Judge will give an opening statement, explaining court procedures, defendants' rights, and penalties. As each case is called, the judge will individually advise each defendant of his/her rights. A case may be postponed to permit the defendant time to hire a lawyer. If the defendant wishes to go ahead without a lawyer, the judge will ask for his/her plea. If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge will ask questions regarding the offense charged to make sure that there is basis for a guilty plea.
If the defendant pleads not guilty and all involved parties are present and prepared, the case will proceed to trial. After the judge has heard the testimony, the judge will decide if the defendant is guilty, not guilty, or if the case should be dismissed. If the defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty after a trial, the judge will impose sentence.
If you need any further information, please call our office.
Helpful Phone Numbers:
Lawyer Referral Service of Burlington County Bar Association: 609.261.862
This service provides legal referrals in a particular field of law in which the client needs help. Attorneys will have an initial consultation with client for a reduced fee.
Office on Aging, Human Services Facility: 609.265.5069
Legal Aid is one of the many services provided by the County Office on Aging to the residents of Burlington County who are over the age of 60. This service provides legal advice, but does not provide representation in the municipal courts.