New Jersey has five levels in its court system, and they are busy! Each year, there are around seven million cases filed in the New Jersey state court system. Trials are heard at the Supreme, Appellate, Tax, Superior, and Municipal court levels. Each level hears different types of cases.
If you come into contact with the judicial system, it will most likely be through the Municipal Court System. There are numerous Municipal Courts in New Jersey – many in each county! They cover issues like traffic violations like parking tickets and minor criminal cases like simple assault. More severe crimes usually go to the Superior Courts.
What If You Need to Go to the Municipal Court?
If you received a charge that is taking you to Municipal Court, take the first step by contacting a New Jersey attorney like Leon Matchin. Leon has many years of experience in the Municipal Courts, and he is also certified by the Supreme Court of the state of New Jersey as a Municipal Court Trial Attorney. Take a moment to learn more about the court system in New Jersey and what to expect at a Municipal Court trial.
Court System in New Jersey
There are five levels to the New Jersey Court System. Depending on the offense, you may start out at the lowest level (Municipal Court), or you may progress up to the Superior Court. An attorney can help you understand which court you will be going to and how to proceed.
- Municipal Court System: This is the lowest court in New Jersey. During a Municipal trial, only the judge will hear the case; there is no jury. Offenses such as reckless driving, simple assault, possession of drug paraphernalia, and speeding fall under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Courts. A Municipal Court judge can impose a fine, suspension of driver’s license, or up to six months of jail time. During a Municipal trial, you have the right to an attorney. You will go to court in the municipality where the offense happened. For example, if you live in Monmouth County but committed simple assault in Atlantic County, the trial will be held at a Municipal Court in Atlantic County.
- Superior Court System: The Superior Courts hear more serious offenses and also appeals from the Municipal Courts. The Superior Courts are broken out into three sections:
- Criminal Court: Hears criminal cases; a jury is present
- Family Court: Hears divorce cases and juvenile cases
- Civil Court: Hears cases between individuals and businesses seeking monetary damages for situations like workplace injury or breach of contract. The Civil Court has three sections of its own:
- Small Claims Court: Civil cases where damages are under $3,000. Also hears landlord/tenant cases.
- Special Civil Court: Damages are greater than $3,000 but less than $15,000.
- Civil Part: Damages are greater than $15,000
- Appellate Court System: This level of court hears appeals from the Superior Courts.
- Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the highest court level in New Jersey. It is an appellate court, so it hears appeals from the lower courts. The Supreme Court interprets the New Jersey and the United States Constitution when deciding the outcome of cases.
What to Expect at Municipal Court
Let’s further discuss the court that you are most likely to come into contact with: the Municipal Court. Since this court handles minor violations, most charges end up here. Sometimes by working with an experienced Municipal Court attorney, you can avoid a trial altogether. An attorney may be able to get your charges completely dropped or at least downgraded to avoid a court date.
If you do go to trial, your case will be heard by just a judge (no jury). Due to COVID-19, some trials are taking place virtually. Whether you are in person or virtual, dress as professionally as possible. Be polite and patiently wait your turn. Your attorney will discuss with you your options, including taking a plea agreement, pleading guilty, pleading not guilty, or appealing the court’s decision. Check out the “Your Day in Court” brochure provided by njcourts.gov and speak with your attorney, so you know exactly what to expect.
Hiring an Attorney for Your Municipal Court Case
It is to your benefit to hire an attorney to defend you in Municipal Court. Attorneys can help create a successful defense to have your charges dropped or downgraded. An attorney can also help guide you through the court process so that you know exactly what to expect each step of the way.
Leon Matchin is a local New Jersey attorney who is certified by the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey as a Municipal Court Trial Attorney. This level of certification is an honor and is only held by a handful of attorneys. As an experienced and certified Municipal Court Trial Attorney, Leon Matchin is the ideal person to work on your case. He has years of experience defending clients and knows the ins and outs of New Jersey law and the Municipal Court system.
If you or a loved one have received a charge that will be heard in the Municipal Court system, give New Jersey attorney Leon Matchin a call at 732-887-2479 or contact him via email at [email protected]. He will set up an initial consultation to learn more about you and your case.