What is the Difference between New Jersey County Court and Municipal Court?

municipal court Sea Girt, NJ

New Jersey organizes its court system at the highest with the Supreme Court, followed by Appellate Division Courts, Superior Courts, and Municipal Courts.  The New Jersey court system has tiers to indicate both the gravity of the case along with the status. For example, appearing before the New Jersey Supreme Court indicates the case has been appealed from decisions of the lower court because one or both of the parties were unsatisfied with the outcome. 

No matter the type of case, it is crucial to understand the New Jersey Court System and how to navigate it. With proper legal representation, you can have someone help you navigate the New Jersey Court System.

Understanding The New Jersey Court System

While the municipal courts enforce the smallest punishments, they are the most common courts in New Jersey, where residents will most likely appear.  In contrast to the usual depiction in the media, juries do not exist in municipal courts with decisions rendered solely by a municipal judge.  Even though the right to a jury trial does not exist in a municipal court, anybody appearing in municipal court retains the right to a hearing and legal counsel.

New Jersey county courts, also known as the Superior Courts, divide into three parts:

  • Criminal
  • Family
  • Civil

New Jersey county courts hear a more extensive range of cases, which is why it divides the court system into three different parts.  Types of cases these courts can handle include more serious criminal offenses, domestic violence, custody issues, divorce, housing, foreclosure, and other civil matters.

Making Distinctions Between The Municipal and Superior Courts

An important distinction between New Jersey’s municipal courts and Superior courts is the right to a jury trial for certain criminal matters.  In municipal courts, there is no right to a jury trial. The judge alone will determine the sentence of guilty or not guilty.  In contrast, a defendant has a right to a jury in criminal matters for the New Jersey county courts.

Domestic violence cases usually occur after business hours in the New Jersey county courts.  Since domestic violence emergencies can happen in the evenings and weekends, victims of domestic violence can apply for a restraining order at either the New Jersey superior court or the municipal courts.

The application process for a temporary restraining order at the municipal court level involves the judge reviewing the victim's domestic violence complaint before deciding if the issue merits a temporary restraining order.

If it is during normal business hours, the police will usually instruct a person reporting domestic violence to the New Jersey superior courts to obtain a temporary restraining order. 

Call Us Today

Ultimately, an easy way to determine if the case will be heard before a municipal or a county court is through evaluation. A professional attorney with experience in this type of law can help determine the severity of the charged crime.

Call (732) 449-0449 to schedule a consultation with Anthony J. Cafaro, P.C. in our Sea Girt office.

NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice

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