An Overview of the Legal Process for Resolving a Traffic Citation
It happens to most of us at some point. You’re behind the wheel and get distracted, thinking about work or adjusting the volume on the radio. The next thing you know, there’s a flasher in the rearview mirror and a police officer is giving you a ticket for speeding, running a stop sign, or violating some other traffic law. In New Jersey, most of those infractions are considered municipal violations and are resolved in municipal court. Let’s take a look at the overall process for resolving a traffic citation in New Jersey.
When you’re issued a traffic ticket, you’re notified of the time and date to appear in municipal court for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will read all charges against you and ask you to make a plea. You must plead either guilty or not guilty. Failure to show up for the hearing can lead to a bench warrant for your arrest. With some tickets, you may be able to simply pay the fine without going to court, but you must do so before the scheduled hearing.
If you plead guilty, the judge will then determine the penalty. As a general rule, you’ll have the opportunity to explain any special circumstances to the judge before the sentence is given. It’s important to understand, though, that a guilty plea waives your right to trial. The judge has some leeway in most sentencing and typically weighs such factors as the seriousness of the offense, any prior convictions, and any extenuating circumstances. On the other hand, if you plead not guilty, the judge will determine a trial date.
At the trial, the prosecutor will introduce evidence to support a finding of guilty, and you’ll have the opportunity to bring in witnesses and offer testimony or evidence to support an acquittal. There’s no requirement that you be represented by an attorney in municipal court, but you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage if you try to handle your own case. The prosecutor will be familiar with all procedural rules, as well as rules of evidence, and you can’t expect any assistance from the judge. Therefore, you should call our office as soon as you receive a ticket so we can protect your rights.
You can change a not-guilty plea to a guilty plea, but you must do so on or before the day of trial. In addition, under limited circumstances, you can postpone (or adjourn) the trial because of extenuating circumstances but must obtain the court’s approval to do so.
Contact Our Office
For a confidential meeting with an aggressive New Jersey driving-violations attorney, call us at 973-315-9080 or contact us online. We are currently available for client consultations via phone or videoconference. We are available to talk with you evenings and weekends, if necessary. We welcome all major credit cards. ¡Nosotros hablamos español!