Municipal Court Charges and Defense in NJ
Say you run into trouble while in one of the many of distinct townships, boroughs, and cities that make up Morris County, New Jersey. Maybe you get charged with shoplifting, simple assault or disorderly conduct in a fight, or trespassing on someone else’s property. The police detain you for a brief period of time and give you a document ordering you to appear in court. You likely have a lot of questions. Have you just been charged with a crime? If you plead guilty, will you have a criminal record? Will this affect your job or your academic standing? What penalties are you facing? New Jersey criminal charges can be complicated, and the consequences associated with a criminal charge versus a lesser charge can be dramatically different. Some of the most common offenses you can be charged with in New Jersey are known as disorderly persons offenses. This is a large category of criminal offenses that falls below felony crimes but ranks above lesser, municipal ordinance violations. While a disorderly persons offense is different from a municipal ordinance violation, both may be relevant to your criminal case and may even provide an option for your defense.
If you have been issued a summons for a disorderly persons offense or given a municipal ordinance violation, both will lead you to the local Municipal Court in the municipality where it was issued. Before heading to court, it is vital to know what your alleged offense actually means under New Jersey law. The team of criminal defense lawyers at our firm have successfully handled thousands of cases involving criminal charges and ordinance violations in Morristown, Rockaway, Parsippany, Dover, Madison, Boonton, Roxbury, and throughout Morris County. Get the answers you need now by reading about the key differences between ordinances and disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey below and call (908) 336-5008 for a free consultation about your case.
What is a Municipal Ordinance Violation in New Jersey?
Municipal ordinances are the local laws passed by each individual borough, township, city, or the like. They are not written into the New Jersey Criminal Code, and a violation of a municipal ordinance is not a crime. Municipal ordinance violations are more like tickets. They may involve the payment of a fine or community service, but they typically are not associated with jail or prison time or many of the harsher penalties associated with a criminal conviction. Municipal ordinance violations are handled in New Jersey’s municipal courts, which are local courts generally found in most towns. Municipal courts handle lower level criminal offenses, as well as traffic tickets and ordinance violations.
Although not technically a crime, a ticket and order to appear in municipal court on a municipal ordinance violation is not something you should simply ignore. The fines, fees, and court assessments associated with a violation can run into the hundreds of dollars; however, a conviction does not appear on your criminal record. A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to help you explain your side of the story in court and present defenses to the violation that can help you avoid these consequences.
What is a Disorderly Persons Charge in NJ?
A disorderly persons offense is more serious than a municipal ordinance violation. Disorderly persons offenses generally arise from some violation of New Jersey law applicable throughout the state, as opposed to municipal ordinances that apply in just one town. When you face a disorderly persons charge, a conviction will go on your permanent record, similar to how any other crime appears on your permanent criminal record in New Jersey. You can face up to 6 months in jail if you are convicted of a disorderly persons offense. You can also lose your driver’s license for a period, be subject to a $1,000 fine, and face hundreds of dollars in penalty assessments and court costs.
Although disorderly persons offenses are generally more serious than municipal ordinance violations, they are still heard in local municipal courts, alongside traffic offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses.
Can I Get a Disorderly Persons Offense Downgraded to a Municipal Ordinance Violation in NJ?
In some cases cases, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can argue that positive facts associated with your case and/or your criminal history justify the prosecution reducing your disorderly persons offense down to a lower-level municipal ordinance violation. This can benefit your criminal record, your wallet, and it can keep you out of jail. Although this outcome is not assured, our team of talented Morris County criminal defense attorneys can give you an assessment of your chances for a downgrade based on the specific facts of your case. We have successfully negotiated for downgraded charges in countless cases over the years and can provide the type of representation you want when seeking the best outcome. Contact our local office in Morristown at (908) 336-5008 for a free initial consultation and learn more.