Your rights in the Municipal Courts of the State of New Jersey
Every person has the right to present his or her own defense without an attorney, but if you are in doubt as to how to process it is recommended that you consult an attorney.
1. You have a RIGHT TO BE INFORMED OF THE CHARGES against you.
2. You have the RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT concerning the charges against you and anything you say may be used against you.
3. You may plead GUILTY or NOT GUILTY to certain non – indictable charges against you such as, traffic offenses, disorderly persons offenses and ordinances.
4. You have the RIGHT TO RETAIN AN ATTORNEY.
5. You have the RIGHT TO BE ASSIGNED AN ATTORNEY If:
You are charged with an offense and the judge determines you cannot afford an attorney and there is a likelihood that if you are convicted you will either go to jail, receive a substantial fine or your driver’s license will be suspended.
Do I qualify for a Public Defender: https://njcourts.gov/courts/assets/municipal/indigencyguidelines.pdf?c=KRC
6. You have the right to obtain a REASONABLE POSTPONEMENT so that you may have an opportunity to consult with your attorney and prepare a proper defense.
7. You are PRESUMED TO BE INNOCENT until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
8. You have the RIGHT TO TESTIFY OR NOT TO TESTIFY on your behalf.
9. You have RIGHT TO CALL OR SUBPOENA witnesses to testify on your behalf. If you need a subpoena, contact the court administrator.
CASES USUALLY WILL BE HEARD IN THIS ORDER:
(1) application for adjournments (2) Guilty pleas (3) contested matters with an attorney (4) other contested matters
IF YOU COME TO COURT FOR A TRAFFIC OFFENSE: and you have not previously notified the court of your intention to plead Not Guilty, speak to the court staff immediately. If the officer or others can be contacted to testify, your case may be heard. If they cannot be reached, you will have to make another court appearance at a later date.
WHEN YOU PLEAD GUILTY: You have effectively waived your right to a trial. You have admitted that you have violated the law. However, you may then explain to the Judge any extenuating circumstances. The Judge will then impose sentence.
IF YOU PLEAD NOT GUILTY: You and all the witnesses will be placed under oath to speak the truth. It is necessary for the prosecution to prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney has the right to ask the prosecution’s witnesses any questions pertaining to the charges. If you do not have an attorney, present your questions for the witness to the Judge.
WHEN THE PROSECUTION HAS FINISHED: you may then present your own witnesses or testify on your behalf. You are not forced to testify on your own behalf, but you may testify if you desire. Either side may use any evidence you give. If you testify, the prosecution has the right to ask you any questions pertaining to the charge(s).
WHEN ALL THE WITNESSES HAVE TESTIFIED: you or your attorney may tell the court why you think you should be found not guilty.
If the court finds you guilty and you feel the judgment or the sentence was in error, you have twenty (20) days within which to appeal. Appeals are heard by the Superior Court, Law Division, in Elizabeth, New Jersey (908) 659-3378.
Municipal Court Appeal Forms: https://www.njcourts.gov/forms/10559_muni_appeal_kit.pdf?c=QQ0
If you are seeking damages from an accident, the Municipal Court is not the proper forum. You must file a claim with Special Civil Part Court in Union County Superior Court 2 Broad St., Elizabeth, NJ (908) 659-3638.