What’s the Difference Between a Municipal Ordinance and a Crime in New Jersey?

If you received a summons or ticket from police in New Jersey, it can be very difficult to understand what the charges actually mean, especially if you’ve never had a run-in with the law before. You may be wondering what is considered a crime in NJ, and what is a municipal ordinance? In most states, crimes are classified as misdemeanors or felonies. New Jersey is unique in that criminal law does not use these classifications. Crimes in NJ are classified as indictable offenses or disorderly persons offenses. Indictable offenses are divided into four levels and are equated with crimes that would be classified as felonies in other states. Disorderly persons (DP) offenses are offenses that would be charged as misdemeanors in most states. Indictable offenses are handled by Superior Courts while DP offenses are handled by Municipal Courts.

Below indictable offenses, New Jersey has several other offenses that are charged at the municipal level. Municipal level offenses include disorderly persons offenses, petty disorderly persons offenses, traffic offenses, and violations of municipal ordinances.

What is a Municipal Ordinance Violation?

In New Jersey, local governmental bodies enact municipal ordinances. Ordinances are regulations, rules, or codes that apply within the municipality. Each city or town has the authority to enact ordinances; therefore, municipal ordinances can vary from town to town. However, many municipalities enact similar rules that govern issues including:

  • Public Intoxication
  • Sleeping in Public Areas
  • Disturbing the Peace
  • Permits and Licenses
  • Excessive Noise within City Limits
  • Underage Drinking
  • Public Nuisances
  • Consuming Alcohol in Public Places
  • Public Urination

A violation of a municipal ordinance is not considered a criminal offense; however, the local prosecutor still has the burden of proof to obtain a conviction. It is important that you do not try to “go it alone” and assume that because the offense is not a crime, you will come out “okay” without an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney.

NJ Municipal Ordinance Penalties

Even though municipal ordinance violations are the lowest offenses in the New Jersey court system, you could still receive stiff penalties for a conviction. The maximum fine associated with a conviction for violating a municipal ordinance is $2,000. In most cases, there will be no jail time, but the fine could be substantial. Notably, a municipal ordinance will not appear as criminal conviction on a background check. While you will not have a criminal record, the conviction does remain in your history unless you apply for an expungement. To expunge a municipal ordinance violation, you must wait two years after the disposition of your case, not have any other arrests or charges during the waiting period, and not have more than two petty disorderly persons or disorderly persons offenses on your criminal record overall.

Municipal Ordinance Attorneys in Burlington, Gloucester, & Camden County NJ Courts

If you are dealing with a municipal ordinance violation in South Jersey, it is important to work with a municipal court defense attorney who regularly appears in courts in the area, as they will be most familiar with the specific court’s procedures and people who operate within the court. For example, if you are scheduled to appear in the Municipal Court for the City of Burlington, your hearing will be held at the Municipal Building at 851 Old York Road in Burlington, NJ. You need an NJ criminal defense attorney who regularly handles matters before this court.

A local attorney understands the local court rules and procedures, and is most likely familiar with the city prosecutor and the presiding municipal court judge. If you are required to appear for a municipal ordinance matter, the highly experienced municipal court lawyers at our criminal defense law firm can help. Our attorneys regularly defend clients in the municipal courts located in Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and throughout Southern New Jersey. Contact us now at 609-832-3202 or online for a free consultation about your case.


testimonials reviews
"Excellent criminal defense lawyer"

"William handled a matter for me and exceeded my expectations. He was excellent in all areas of the law and achieved an outstanding result. Best of all,he demonstrates honesty and integrity. I would highly recommend William and already have."


testimonials reviews

"I was so scared and nervous about my legal situation but Mr. Fay did an outstanding job with my case!!! I was so relieved with the outcome and he worked so hard for me! He was so calm and understanding and I’m so grateful for him. Thank you so very much for helping me! I am so grateful appreciative."


testimonials reviews
"All Charges Dropped & Expunged"

"William defended me in my marijuana + paraphernalia case, he had all charges dropped and expunged! Despite the fact I was long past conditional discharges/probation, etc. He has a sharp wit and a bright future ahead of him as an attorney. Thanks again Will!"


testimonials reviews
"Fantastic Lawyer"

"Mr. Fay is a fantastic lawyer. He helped me during a very stressful time in my life. He was knowledgeable about my case and what my options were. He answered all my questions and was very reassuring. He was there waiting for me at the entrance on my court date and made me feel at ease. He worked with the prosecutor to reduce my charges. I got the best outcome I could have hoped for. I highly recommend Mr. Fay if you need a lawyer."


testimonials reviews
"Marijuana Charges"

"I was arrested and summoned to court for possession of marijuana, even though I didn't have any on me. It was my first time getting in trouble and I was terrified and nervous. Mr. Fay came into court prepared and was extremely assuring. He made it very clear that he was going to fight for my case until the very end. He was extremely knowledgable about my case and the ways to resolve it. I would recommend Mr. Fay to anyone who has gotten into trouble."

former client

testimonials reviews
"Excellent lawyer. Highly recommended."

"Mr. Fay is extremely caring and knowledgeable. He took the time to explain the entire process in a very clear manner and was a tremendous help during a stressful time. He was always available to take a phone call and really showed that he cared about me and my case. I highly recommend Mr. Fay as an attorney." "

former client

testimonials reviews
"Highly recommend"

"Great lawyer. Created a best possible outcome for my case."

former client

testimonials reviews
"Amazing job, explains very clearly"

"He did a fantastic job on my case, making my penalty much less than I thought it could possibly be. He clearly understands what he is doing and can explain everything in a way that anyone can understand. Any questions I had were answered very clearly and he listened to all small details of my case."

former client

Request a Free Consultation

Request a Free Consultation

If you or someone you love has been charged with a criminal or DUI offense in New Jersey, finding the answers you need to make informed decisions is critical. Complete our contact form to request your free consultation or contact 609-832-3202

We are available 24/7 Nights and Weekends to Provide Free Consultations | Hablamos Español