Frequently Asked Questions about Municipal Court
Q. What is municipal court?
The municipal court is a local court created by State Law, whose jurisdiction is limited to the community where it is located. All procedures are regulated by New Jersey Court Rules. The Judge of the Municipal Court is responsible to oversee the administration of their Court.
Q. What types of cases are heard in municipal court?
- Violations of motor vehicle and traffic laws
- Violations of Disorderly and Petty Disorderly offenses
- Violations of Fish and Game laws, Parks & Recreation laws, Weights & Measures Laws, SPCA laws, & boating laws.
- Violations of Municipal Ordinances (Local Laws)
Q. What happens when you appear on your court day?
At the beginning of the court session the Judge will give an opening statement explaining the procedures and rights of all defendants. As each case is called, the Judge will advise each defendant of their charges, rights, and possible penalties associated with each offense. Each defendant is given the option to obtain an attorney. If the defendant waives their right to an attorney, and pleads guilty, the Judge will ask questions regarding the offense to make sure there is a factual basis for the plea of guilty.
If a defendant pleads not guilty, and wishes to have a trial, the Judge will hear the testimony of all persons involved, and render a decision of guilty, not guilty, or dismissal. When the defendant is found guilty, the Judge will impose a sentence. It is sometimes necessary to postpone cases pending a trial, so that involved persons can be notified.
If a defendant fails to appear on their court date, a warrant may be issued for their arrest, and their driving privileges may be revoked.
Q. What is a plea agreement?
Before a defendant appears in front of the Judge, they may speak to the Prosecutor or Police Liaison to try to settle their case through a plea agreement.
The New Jersey State Supreme Court allows plea agreements to be made in Municipal Court, except for Driving While Intoxicated (39:4-50), and certain drug related cases. In exchange for a guilty plea, the Prosecutor can recommend an amendment to a charge to one that is less serious, or result in a point reduction on the defendant’s driving record. The Judge must approve all of the plea agreements.
Q. When is a court appearance required?
A court appearance is required for all Disorderly, Petty Disorderly, & Municipal Ordinance violations.
In traffic matters, if the ticket is marked Court Appearance Required, you must appear on that date and time indicated on the ticket, whether your intent is to plead guilty or not guilty.
If your ticket is not marked Court Appearance Required, and you wish to plead not guilty, you must contact the court seven days prior to the court date to inform us of your intent, and to make certain that the court date that appears on your ticket is available. Failure to notify us may result in more than one appearance in court.
Also, please let us know if you have special needs, such as, hearing impaired equipment, interpreters, etc., so that we can have available the proper accommodations for your needs on the date you are scheduled to appear for court.
Please note, it is important to have your summons number available when calling, so that we may better assist you.
Q. Do I need a lawyer?
It is important to understand that the municipal court staff cannot offer any type of legal advice. The decision to obtain a lawyer is up to the defendant. We will answer all questions pertaining to the procedures in municipal court. You are eligible for a Public Defender for cases that have a probable sentence of Driver’s License suspension, jail term, or significant fine.
Q. How do I pay a summons?
You may mail your summons with a check or money order to the address shown on the ticket, or you may pay your summons at the Woolwich Township Municipal Court with a check money order, cash or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). You may also utilize the drop box in front of the building for after hour payments. Please do not leave cash in drop box. You may also go online to www.njmcdirect.com, using a credit card to pay the violation. Please make sure that you have the court id (0824), the prefix and the ticket number and the license plate number to be able to pay your summons.
Q. How is bail used?
Bail is the money deposited with the court to grant the temporary release of a defendant, and to ensure their appearance in court on their designated day and time.
Bail may be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear on any court date they are scheduled for. That is why it is very important that the defendant knows the exact date and time of their court appearance. If there is any confusion regarding dates, please feel free to phone our office during regular business hours to confirm your court date.
Bail may only be returned to the person that posted it, and only when the case has come to a conclusion. If the person who posted the bail cannot attend court on the day of trial, their bail will be mailed to them, and only to the address that that appears on the bail forms.
Bail may also be applied to fines and costs assessed, if the defendant or persons that posted it wants it applied.
In some minor traffic offenses, a bail waiver may be signed. The dedendant enters a guily plea, gives up their right to a trial, and authorizes the court to apply the bail posted to the fines and costs assessed.