"Frequently Asked Questions about Municipal Court"
The following are the most frequently asked questions about the New Jersey Municipal Court system:
Why Hire a New Jersey Traffic Lawyer?
A New Jersey Traffic attorney knows the business, knows what hidden collateral consequences to avoid in court, and will protect your rights.
Using an experienced NJ Traffic lawyer can actually mean the difference between freedom and incarceration, losing one's privilege to drive and incurring substantial fines and costs in court and to insurance companies
Having an experienced NJ Traffic attorney on your side tells the prosecutor and judge that you are serious about protecting your rights and defending yourself in court.
Peace of mind from knowing your interests are being protected allows you to get back to your life with as few delays as possible.
A New Jersey Traffic lawyer will be able to tell you your legal rights and what to expect as your case proceeds.
He or she can defend you aggressively so that you are not abused by the system, the prosecutor or Judge assigned to handle your case.
What can a New Jersey Traffic Attorney do for me in Court?
A New Jersey Traffic attorney will first look for ways to have the charges against you dismissed.
If, however, after the New Jersey Traffic attorney's investigation it becomes apparent that the State's case is not likely to be dismissed, then the attorney will attempt to plea bargain the matter.
The vast majority of cases in New Jersey are resolved by way of plea bargain.
What should I expect of my NJ Traffic lawyer?
You should expect of your NJ Traffic attorney to confront the prosecution and ensure the integrity of the judicial process.
Your New Jersey Traffic lawyer will do so by initially conducting his or her own investigation on your behalf or reasonably conclude that an investigation is unnecessary.
The investigation would entail questioning witnesses whether for the state or for the defense.
In addition, New Jersey traffic attorney will need to decide whether to engage a defense expert witness.
While talking to witnesses and reviewing documents, NJ traffic lawyer should be trying to develop a factual basis for potential pre-trial motions as well as trial defenses to the charges.
Can my NJ Traffic attorney also represent my co-defendant?
The answer is no, because that creates a conflict of interest.
For the best possible legal result all defendants involved should be represented by their own individual New Jersey Municipal Court lawyer of their choosing.
Besides when each defendant in a co-defendant case have their own attorney, the attorneys can get together and formulate a joint defense agreement that will serve their respective clients' best interests.
What is the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause?
The distinction is very important.
An officer is required to have reasonable suspicion that a law was violated to be empowered to effectuate a motor vehicle stop.
This standard is very low and subjective.
The only question before a Judge is whether the officer's suspicion that the law was violated was reasonable.
In other words, would an average person of average intelligence performing the same duties that the officer was performing at the time of the stop done the same thing.
More often than not police overcome this standard.
Probable cause is the standard that the police must meet in order to search a vehicle or to arrest an individual.
Probable cause standard is much higher than reasonable suspicion.
For an officer to arrest an individual he or she must have probable cause or in other words "well grounded suspicion" that a crime has been committed.
A well grounded suspicion is a much higher standard to meet than the reasonable suspicion standard.
Hence, police must afford a much better explanation to the Judge why they arrested an individual.
Nevertheless, the standard is also subjective and more often than not the police overcome it as well.
What are my legal obligations when I am being stopped for a moving violation?
If you are stopped for a moving violation in New Brunswick, New Jersey, for example, then the officer subjectively believes that he or she has reasonable suspicion that you committed some type of traffic infraction such as speeding, running a light or stop sign, illegal u-turn, or an unsafe lane change, etc...
You must produce your driver's license, insurance and registration cards.
Do not engage the officer in friendly chit chat or volunteer any information because he or she may be evaluating your speech and behavior to justify an arrest - probable cause - for drunk driving, perhaps.
The less information you volunteer the less evidence they will be able to introduce in court against you.
Only if you are arrested for DWI, for example, your next legal obligation is to submit to a breathalyzer test.
Should you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you will be charged with refusal which is much harder to beat in court than a DWI charge.
I got a ticket in the mail, is that legal?
Yes, provided it was served on you within 30 days of the alleged offense date.
What Do I Do When I Meet My Lawyer At Court?
You just need to have a seat inside the court room and allow your lawyer to do all the work for you.
Lawyers in court are like doctors in the hospital or actors on a stage.
A courtroom is a lawyers' place of work.
Your lawyer is there to speak on your behalf with all the players involved in your case.
What should the prosecutor and Judge do if I inform them that I intend to hire a lawyer?
The prosecutor should immediately stop speaking with you and the Judge should release you from Court while affording you reasonable time to hire an attorney.
May I file a complaint in a New Jersey Municipal Court?
Although majority of complaints in municipal court are filed by police officers, citizens have the right to file traffic as well as petty disorderly persons complaints, however, the court must find probable cause for the issuance of such a complaint if the defendant asks for a probable cause hearing.
Are there alternatives to jail in New Jersey Municipal court?
Some examples of an alternative to jail may be community service, highway work, work release, lap - labor assistance program - or drug or alcohol rehabilitation inpatient program.
Monmouth County Sheriff's office does not participate in the LAP - Labor Assistance Program - a defendant sentenced to jail in any municipal court in Monmouth County, such as Holmdel or Keyport, serves that time in County Jail.
What is LAP?
LAP is also known as SLAP.
It is a labor assistance program or Sheriff's labor assistance program whereby defendants are sentenced by a municipal court Judge to work on weekends in lieu of serving a jail sentence.
If the officer did not sign the complaint against me can I get the case dismissed?
Yes but only if the complaint is not signed by the officer within the statute of limitations period for the offense.
In other words, if the statute of limitations has not ran out on the offense then the Court will allow the officer to amend the complaint.
If the officer who signed the ticket made a mistake on the ticket will I be able to get the case dismissed?
In New Jersey the Court are very reluctant to dismiss tickets, summonses and complaints based on technicalities.
You can always make the argument to the Judge but the most likely outcome of your request will be that the Judge will allow the officer (complainant) to amend the complaint to correct the mistakes made.
What is a controlled dangerous substance?
Any drug ranging from marijuana to heroin or cocaine.
What is Conditional Discharge?
Defendant facing a drug charge in municipal court of East Brunswick, New Jersey, for example, may apply for the conditional discharge program.
The Court will accept such defendant into the program only if he or she has never been entered into the conditional discharge program before or has never faced a drug charge in court before.
Otherwise, the Judge will disqualify such a defendant as being ineligible to be admitted into the conditional discharge program.
If admitted, defendant will face fines from the Court plus a one year probation subject to random drug tests during that one year period.
If defendant does not re offend during the one year probation and passes all administered drug tests then defendant's original charges will be dismissed so the stigma attached to a person with a criminal record will be avoided
Are Sobriety Checkpoints legal?
Yes, provided that the roadblock put in place in East Brunswick, New Jersey let's just say, was established by a command authority and carefully targeted a designated area at a specified time based on data justifying the site selection for reasons of public safety.
Click here to contact a NJ Traffic Lawyer if you have a question that has not been answered on this frequently asked questions page.