What happens in municipal court?

Posted June 4th, 2015 by .

Categories: Legal Topics.

municipal-court-lawyer-anthony-carboneThere are a few reasons why you may be ordered to appear in municipal court.  Perhaps you are accused of a traffic violation or a shoplifting offense.  Your neighbor may have brought you to court with noise complaints.  Whatever the charges, it is important to know what happens in municipal court.

Ordered to Appear in Municipal Court

Many parties who are scheduled to appear in municipal court have received a traffic summons.  Although not all tickets require a court appearance, you must show up if you intend to fight the charges.  It is your responsibility to alert the court if you intend to enter a plea of “Not Guilty”.  We advise our clients to discuss their tickets with us prior to the hearing.  This way, we can notify the court of our representation and your intention to plead “Not Guilty.”

There are alternative ways to receive a notice to appear in municipal court.  If someone other than a police officer has issued a complaint against you, you will receive notification by mail.  Many times, the summons will resemble the paper ticket generally issued for traffic stops.

According to New Jersey court rules, court appearances may be necessary regardless of the intended plea.  They are required for all criminal charges such as shoplifting, assault, drug charges and harassment.  They are also necessary in all matters involving personal injury.  A court appearance can also be mandated by a simple checkmark on the back of the summons.

The order in which cases are called is governed by court rules and is as follows:

  • Requests for postponements.
  • Arraignments
  • Guilty pleas: Where defendant is represented by an attorney.
  • Where defendant is not represented by an attorney.
  • Not guilty pleas: Where defendant is represented by an attorney.
  • Where defendant is not represented by an attorney

First Appearance

At the first court appearance, the municipal court judge will advise the defendant of the charges waged against him/her. This process is known as the court arraignment.   The judge will also ensure that the defendant is aware that he or she is entitled to legal counsel.  If you are ever in a municipal courtroom, you will notice that those with legal representation make it to the front of the line.

It is at this point in the proceedings that the judge will offer litigants the opportunity to speak with the municipal prosecutor.  The prosecutor will review the charges and determine if there is a way to avoid trial and save the court time and money.


If you are unable to come to an amicable agreement with the prosecutor, or have been falsely charged, it may be necessary to go to trial.  The judge then makes a decision based on testimony and evidence.

Contact Us

Charged with a municipal court offense?  The Law Offices of Anthony Carbone has over two decades of experience handling these types of matters.  Contact us to schedule your complimentary meeting to discuss your case.

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