A municipal court is often a defendant’s first stop in their journey through New Jersey’s criminal justice system. Sometimes, the case will begin and end in municipal court if the charges are relatively minor. For serious offenses, a municipal court appearance is often when a judge refers the defendant’s case to the county’s superior court.
What cases are handled in a municipal court?
These courts have limited jurisdiction and typically hear criminal cases involving minor offenses. Four examples of crimes commonly handled in municipal court include:
- Traffic offenses
- Simple assaults
- Disorderly conduct
- Petty theft
Those charged with severe offenses such as violent crimes or auto theft also appear in municipal court, although the judge in such matters will likely transfer the case to a higher court.
Why would you need legal help in municipal court?
Many criminal defendants in Atlantic City and other New Jersey locations are not aware that they need to mount a defense in these lower courts. You are essentially on trial in many ways from the moment of your arrest. As such, your goal should always be self-protection from the outset.
Even though you may feel your appearance in a state municipal court is little more than a formality, it is the ideal time to begin your defense. When you have a criminal law attorney standing up for you from your first municipal court appearance through the end of your case, your chances of avoiding the harshest consequences improve significantly.
We encourage you to continue reviewing our criminal law web pages and blog content for more information about defending yourself in any New Jersey court.