Understanding the court system in New Jersey
To the non-attorney, understanding the court system can be a confusing task. What determines which types of cases are heard in which courts? Here’s a simple primer that should quickly answer those questions.
Let’s start with municipal court, the first on the chain for many types of cases. Municipal judges hear traffic offenses, among other things. If you have ever been to municipal court, you know that the judge also hears drunk driving cases. That’s because driving under the influence is not necessarily a crime in New Jersey; it is a motor vehicle offense.
There is a caveat to DUI cases. If you are involved in an accident that causes harm to someone or kills them, the matter is more serious. It no longer stays in municipal court; it is bumped up to the Superior Court level. For Hudson County residents, this means the courthouse on Newark Avenue in Jersey City. In case you are wondering, the motor vehicle portion of the offense does not stay in municipal court. To do so, could subject you to double jeopardy.
In addition to traffic offenses, New Jersey’s municipal courts hear also hear cases involving disorderly persons cases. These include simple assault cases, where no weapon was used, as well as trespassing and shoplifting. Neighbor disputes are often referred to municipal court, as well as matters involving hunting, fishing and boating laws. You cannot sue for money damages in municipal court.
The Superior Court portion of the courts has a few parts. These include the Special Civil Part, where cases involving lawsuits less than $15,000 are heard. When damages are higher, these types of cases will be referred to the Law Division. Personal injury cases are mostly held in this part of the court and are considered civil cases.
In addition to civil cases, the Superior Court hears criminal cases. These include matters that are outside the scope of municipal court. You will notice that some criminal matters are heard in federal court. The difference is whether the offense involves a violation of state or federal statutes.
The Family Court part of the Superior Court does not just hear divorce cases. It is also where adoptions are finalized. Domestic violence, juvenile delinquency and child custody matters are also heard in this part of the court.
New Jersey has a plethora of other courts, including the Chancery Division, Workers Compensation and Tax Courts. In order to understand the court system, it is best to seek competent legal counsel. The Law Offices of Anthony Carbone have a number of years handling cases in both municipal and superior court. In fact, their offices are located just a block away from the Hudson County courthouse. Contact us now to review your case.