New Hanover Township
Burlington County, New Jersey
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
What can I expect when I arrive?
When you arrive in the municipal building on the day of court, make an orderly line behind the barrier leading to the check in desk and follow any posted signs or instructions from court staff. If you are not sure if you need to check in, please ask staff at the window and they will be happy to direct you.
Just before 2pm the court staff will begin to check in those arriving for court. Anyone entering the courtroom will have to proceed through a security check and metal detector. Any food, drinks, or chewing gum are not permitted in the courtroom. The use of cellphones is not permitted in the courtroom and all electronic devices must be silenced. When court is in session, there is no talking permitted in the courtroom. Should children cause a distraction, the court staff may ask you to wait in the lobby until your name is called.
Court sessions are open to the public, but due to fire safety limitations, if the courtroom becomes overcrowded guests or observers may be asked to sit in the lobby until some more seats become available.
What will happen during court?
What is a plea agreement?
A plea agreement is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor about how the case will be resolved. It is not required of you, but you will be given an opportunity to speak with the Prosecutor to try to settle your case through this process. In exchange for a guilty plea, the Prosecutor may amend the charge to one that is less serious or that may result in fewer points on your license. Certain charges may be dismissed or a specific sentence may be recommended. All plea agreements must be approvedby the judge.
What will happen if my case goes to trial?
In a trial, the prosecutor first will call the state’s witnesses, the witnesses against you. They will answer the prosecutor’s questions and present any other evidence they have. When the prosecutor is finished with each witness, you, or your attorney, will be permitted to ask them questions about their testimony. When the prosecutor’s case is complete, it will be your turn to call witnesses and present evidence on your behalf. You can testify, although you are not required to do so. If you testify, the prosecutor can ask you questions or cross-examine you. After all witnesses and evidence have been presented, the judge will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence.
What is the bail process?
Bail is money deposited to assure a defendant's future appearances in court. Once deposited, bail money can secure a defendant's release from jail or recall a warrant for their arrest so that they will be able to appear at all scheduled court dates.The person who posts the bail is known as the surety. The surety can either be the defendant themself or another person posting bail on their behalf. As long as the defendant appears as scheduled, when the case is concluded bail money can either be returned or applied to any fines if the defendant is found guilty. However, bail can only be returned to the person who posted it, so unless the surety is present, the money cannot be returned or applied to fines. If someone other than yourself has posted bail for you, they will need to be present at the resolution of your case to get their money back or put it toward your fines.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an informal and confidential process which allows the parties to meet with an impartial mediator who has received training to assist them in resovling their dispute. The Municipal Court Mediation (MCM) program provides court users an alternative to having certain cases heard and decided by a judge (traditional litigation). As a neutral party, a mediator helps court users discuss the issues of their case and explore options to resolve the dispute themselves with a mutually acceptable solution. The mediation process can be a less expensive, informal, and a more meaningful alternative to the traditional trial process, largely because of the efforts of trained volunteers and the resolution being decided by the participants. The typical types of cases handled through the intervention of a trained mediator include, but are not limited to: simple assaults that do not include personal injury, trespass, harassment, creating a disturbance, animal or pet complaints, annoying phone calls, property disputes, non-payment of bills, bad checks, and criminal mischief.
What is a failure to appear?
If you receive a failure to appear notice, it will contain a new date for you to either pay or appear in court. It is NOT a warrant for your arrest. It is to notify you that you missed a scheduled court date or that the date you had to pay or answer to a ticket or complaint has passed. Read the failure to appear notice thoroughly and contact the court with any further questions.
What is a conditional discharge?
This procedure allows defendants charged with certain drug offenses to be monitored for a period of time determined by the court, and may include certain conditions such as drug counseling and random drug testing. To be eligible, a defendant must have: never been previously convicted of a drug offense, never been granted a conditional discharge, and never received Pre-Trial Intervention or Pre-Trial Diversion. The Judge ultimately determines who is eligible for a conditional discharge. If it is granted, a defendant must pay mandatory assessments and the Judge may suspend his/her driving privileges. If during the monitoring period no additional offenses have been committed and there is compliance with all conditions (including satisfying all financial obligations), the original charges will be dismissed. However, a record of the conditional discharge remains.
What is a civil reservation?
Often in motor vehicle cases, a plea or finding of guilt may affect a subsequent civil case involving personal injury or property damages. This is especially true where a traffic accident is involved. The Rules of Court provide a mechanism for people to resolve their municipal court cases without necessarily exposing them to liability in any later civil suit. Rule 7:6-2(a)(1) allows a defendant to plead guilty with a reservation that the guilty plea will be non-evidential in any civil proceeding. This offers a defendant in municipal court a way to avoid a trial and settle his motor vehicle case in an expeditious manner without any danger to his position in a related civil matter. A defendant or attorney can ask that a case be granted civil reservation so that a plea of guilty in Municipal Court cannot be used as evidence of guilt in a Civil Court matter.