MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
u Do I need to appear in court if I choose to plead guilty and pay the fine?
If the “Court Appearance Required” box has not been checked on the complaint and the charge is listed on either the Statewide Violations Bureau Schedule or the Local Violations Bureau Schedule, you may pay the fine without appearing in court. The Statewide Violation Bureau Schedule is a list of state offenses that may be paid without going to court. The Local Violations Schedule is a list of municipal ordinances that may be paid without going to court. If you pay without going to court, you will be pleading guilty and giving up your right to a lawyer and your right to a trial.
u Where can I make the payment of my fine?
You may pay your fine at the court’s payment window. We accept cash, personal check, money order and credit cards (visa or master card only), or you can pay by mail or via Internet at http://www.njmcdirect.com
u If I can plead guilty without going to court, how much will I have to pay?
The amounts of the fines are listed in the Statewide or Local Violations Bureau Schedules. We have included both schedules for your convenience in our website.
u What happens if I plead guilty in court?
If you plead guilty in court, the judge will ask questions regarding the offense charged to make sure that there are facts to support the guilty plea and to determine that your plea is voluntary. The judge will then make a finding and impose a sentence. If you plead guilty of traffic offenses in court, the penalties listed on the Violations Bureau Schedule do not apply.
u What is a plea agreement?
A plea agreement is a way to settle the case. Plea agreements are negotiated with the Prosecutor, and an attorney who represents the State. You will be given the opportunity to speak to the Prosecutor. The judge must approve all plea agreements.
u What if I plea not guilty?
If you plead not guilty, the judge will preside over a trial to determine whether you are guilty or not guilty. The trial may be held that day, but under certain circumstances it may be rescheduled.
u Do I have to hire an attorney to handle my case?
No. You have the right to defend yourself without an attorney.
u What if I can’t afford to hire an attorney?
If the court determines you cannot afford an attorney, in certain serious offenses that carry consequences of magnitude such as any jail sentence, any period of driver’s license suspension and any fines of $750.00 or more, you can be assigned an attorney by the court. The attorney is called a Public Defender. Depending on your financial situation, you may be required to contribute up to $200 toward your Public Defender’s fee.
To request the services of the Public Defender you will be required by the court to fill out Financial Questionnaire to Establish Indigency; the judge will then review it and determine whether or not you are qualified to receive assistance from the Public Defender.
u If I am found guilty, what happens after court?
You will be required to pay all monetary penalties, as ordered by the judge.
u What if I can’t afford to pay my fines?
Under certain circumstances, the court may permit you to pay over a period of time. To pay in installments, you will be required by the court to fill out a Financial Questionnaire to Establish Indigency.
u What happens if I don’t agree with the judge’s decision?
If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you may appeal, but if you appeal, you must file the appeal within 20 calendar days of your conviction. You will be required to pay a deposit that will be applied against the cost of preparing a transcript of the trial. You also will be required to pay $75 filing fee. The court staff will be able to provide you with a copy of the appeal packet. Please click "Appeal Package" to access forms.
u What happens when the court’s orders are not obeyed?
People who fail to appear in court when summoned or subpoenaed, make payments when required, or comply with other requirements of their sentences, face additional punishments such as fines, driver’s license suspensions, arrest and jail.
u If I have questions about the charges against me, can someone in the municipal court help me?
No. The judge and the court staff are not permitted to give legal advice, however, the following is a list of things the court staff CAN and CANNOT do for you:
þ We CAN explain and answer questions about how the court works.
þ We CAN tell you what the requirements are to have your case considered by the judge.
þ We CAN give you some information from your case file.
þ We CAN provide you with some samples of court forms that are available.
þ We CAN provide you with some guidance on how to fill out forms.
We CAN usually answer questions about court deadlines.
ý We CANNOT give you legal advice; only your attorney can give you legal advice.
ý We CANNOT tell you whether or not you should bring your case to court.
ý We CANNOT give you an opinion about what will happen if you bring your case to court.
ý We CANNOT recommend an attorney, but we can give you the telephone number of a local attorney referral service www.njsbf.org
ý We CANNOT talk to the judge for you about what will happen in your case.
ý We CANNOT let you talk to the judge outside of the court.
ý We CANNOT change an order issued by a judge.
u I have a speeding ticket; would you tell me how many points I get on my driver license?
No. The municipal court does not have knowledge of the points that you may get for a traffic or non-traffic violation. You must contact the Motor Vehicle Commission www.njmvc.gov
u What is a Community Dispute Resolution Committee?
The Community Dispute Resolution Committee (CDRC) provides a means in which minor disputes at the municipal level can be resolved without having to go to court.
Disputing parties appear before a team of trained mediators who work with the parties to develop a solution to the problem.
u What types of cases are referred to a CDRC?
The types of disputes that could be referred to a CDRC include:
« Neighborhood disputes
« Business/consumer complaints
« Simple harassment
« Dog complaints
« Noise complaints
« Bad checks
« Landlord /tenant disputes
« Destruction and simple theft
Often these types of disputes are more effectively resolved through mediation rather than through a formal court proceeding.
u How does the CDRC work?
The Municipal Court Judge or Court Administrator refers cases to the CDRC. Parties are notified by mail to appear before the committee.
During the mediation session, each party is given the opportunity to present his/her side of the case. After the parties have presented their case, the panel attempts to encourage discussion of the problem between the town parties and guide them toward a mutually agreeable solution. CDRC’S are “solution-oriented” and are not preoccupied with deciding facts, guilt or innocence. The disputing parties are encouraged to frame a resolution they can both live with, and in doing so, become more likely to honor it.
If agreement is reached, it will be put in writing by the Committee and signed by both parties.
u What if we do not reach an agreement?
If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the case may be returned to the court for further proceedings. If a formal complaint has not yet been filed, either party may do so with the Court Administrator.
u Who makes up the CDRC?
Citizens from the community volunteer to serve on the committee. Committee members are approved by the Assignment Judge of the Superior Court and are trained in mediation techniques. The mediators do not take sides or make judgments about “right” or “wrong”. Rather, they help disputing parties discuss their needs, differences, and areas of agreement.
u What are the advantages of Community Dispute Resolution Committees?
« CDRC provides a flexible and open forum that enable citizens to resolve minor problems without the possibility of a conviction record.
« Each party is given the opportunity to tell their side of the story in an atmosphere that is less formal than a court proceeding.
« The mediation session is private and confidential. This helps to preserve goodwill and a positive working relationship.
« CDRC encourages local citizens to become involved in the justice system thereby increasing their awareness and support.