New Jersey’s Municipal Courts are the lowest trial courts in the state, and they use only judges to decide verdicts. They have limited jurisdiction. Most residents of New Jersey will use Municipal Courts for their legal issues. The state as a whole, sees about seven million court cases per year, and many of them occur in Municipal Courts.
The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are local ordinance violations, motor vehicle issues, parking tickets, minor criminal offenses, along with fish and game issues. Municipal Courts can only hear cases of events that take place within the boundaries of the municipality. Therefore felonies, other serious crimes and things beyond their jurisdiction will be sent to Superior Court. Municipal Courts may handle preliminary hearings or complaints, but often the cases will be moved up to Superior Court for processing.
Many people who come in contact with the courts either as a victim, a defendant, a juror, witness, or a plaintiff, will end up in Municipal Courts. Therefore the New Jersey Courts website has a whole section for self-help and people who are representing themselves in traffic violation cases, minor criminal offenses, or other small civil suits. The site offers forms to download for filing, an e-filing option, links to pay traffic tickets online, guidance on the courtroom process, legal resources, connections to attorneys, rules of the court, and quick links to things like divorce, adoption, child support, child custody, domestic violence and other helpful tips and information. They even provide a walk-through guide called “Your Day in Municipal Court.”
For the last year tallied, Municipal Courts saw a total of, 958,790 filings. Most of those (4,302,81) were for traffic-related incidents, and the other 655,975 were for criminal convictions.