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.