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Articles Posted in Municipal Court

The New Jersey Municipal Court will start to slowly reopen for business on May 11, 2020. The Courts will be conducting a limited amount of appearances for those matters that can potentially be resolved via phone and video conference. The amount and types of cases that the courts will hear will be determined by the individuals court’s technological abilities. This means that some courts may resolve many cases and some may resolve none.

Regardless, over the course of the last few weeks, in anticipation of this, I have received calls from several prosecutors from several different municipal courts, including Union, East Brunswick, Palisades Interstate Court, and Elizabeth, to name a few. These negotiations over the phone have really paid off and I was able to negotiate some very good plea agreements for my clients. The charges included traffic matters, such as driving without insurance, speeding, driving while suspended or revoked, careless driving with an accident and without and leaving the scene of an accident. Additionally, I was able to resolve a few criminal cases too involving possession of marijuana under 50 grams of and possession of CDS in a motor vehicle.

Superior Courts have been ahead of the municipal courts in having virtual court sessions. The more serious drug cases and crimes are at the Superior Court level and I have been doing a good amount of virtual court appearances over the last month.

I was contacted by several municipal prosecutors this work asking if we could work out some of my existing client’s cases by something called a plea by affidavit. This mechanism is typically only used for out of state residents or those who do not have the ability to come to court. As part of a plea by affidavit, there would typically be a requirements that the defendant provide reasons in a certification about why it would be a hardship for that person to come to court.

Obviously, given the covid 19 outbreak, Courts are not requiring such a thing for some matters. Most of the calls that I received were for traffic related offenses other than DWI. However, I suspect that in the coming weeks there will a push to resolve existing municipal court matters, including disorderly persons offenses (simple assault, marijuana possession, shoplifting,etc.) through a plea by affidavit. Otherwise the backlog of cases could get out of hand for the municipal court.

That being said, I think that there is a great opportunity for many of these cases to resolve very favorably for my clients and I will continue to push for this sort of resolution. In addition, just because the courts are closed does not mead that the police have stopped working. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have seen many DWI, domestic violence, shoplifting, harassment and drug arrest, just to name a few. I have been consulting with new and existing clients. I have been communicating with police records on my new cases and police records in many jurisdictions is providing discovery which give me the ability to work towards a resolution of the case.

The answer is it depends. The municipal courts are not holding court sessions. Municipal courts are responsible for traffic violations including DWI and disorderly persons criminal offenses (misdemeanors). They are issuing future court dates but are also trying to set up virtual court to expedite those dates. If you have a traffic charge or disorderly persons criminal offense violation like possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or DWI, then your court date may be a few months out, but it will not go away. It is still important to address it sooner rather than later and begin the process. Police records are still producing discovery and all other documents and I expect that that courts will expecting litigants to be at least somewhat prepared to go. I think those that are ready, and willing to proceed early on when sessions resume may get favorable deals, since they will not be contributing to the municipal court backlog.

Superior Court, Criminal Division, is quickly making progress with virtual court via video. These courts are responsible for more serious offenses called indictable offenses. Indictable offenses are also called felony offenses. First, Second, Third and Fourth degree indictable offenses are the responsibility of the Superior Court. Drug possession and distribution charges for heroin, cocaine, prescription pills, theft and shop lifting over $500, aggravated assault, weapons and guns charges, eluding the police, robbery, terroristic threats, sex assault, etc. are a few examples of these types of offenses.   I personally handled three matters this week via video court, 2 in Union County and one in Morris. It was actually pretty seamless.  I think that as the weeks progress, we will see a marked increase in the number of cases handles by the courts and the timelines moving up considerably. Likewise, I think in the interim, there will be a good opportunity to resolve cases favorably. The reason I say this is because I believe that the courts do not want to put people in jail right now. They want a reason to not put them in jail.

I think that I have a window to get really good results if I can get cases hear. For example, I had a client who was facing two First Degree count of robbery, with a bad prior record, looking at an extended term, possibly 30 years. I was able to get him a 5 flat sentence and kept him eligible for ISP, intensive supervision program. He already had 8 months in, he will likely be out as soon as he gets in. I highly doubt this would have happened two weeks ago.

Q: What is municipal court?

A: It is a trial court that deals exclusively with cases involving city ordinance violations. Offenses brought before a municipal court are those that occur within the limits of the municipality.

Q: What types of cases are heard in municipal court?

A:  Violations of Motor Vehicle and Traffic Violations

Disorderly and Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses

Violations of Municipal Ordinances

Q: Am I required to appear in municipal court?

A:   If you were issued a summons and the officer checked the Court Appearance required box, you must appear in court on the scheduled date. Additionally, some violations are non-payable and require a court appearance. Continue Reading

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