Guide to Municipal Court
The Municipal Court is a local court created by state law, whose territory is confined to the city or community in which it is located. Practice and procedures are governed by New Jersey Court Rules. The Municipal Court Judge is responsible for overseeing the administration of his/her Municipal Court. The Assignment Judge of the Superior Court (office located in Trenton) is responsible for overseeing the administration of all the municipal courts in Mercer County.
There are twelve municipal courts in Mercer County. Each municipality appoints its own Municipal Court Judge. Other personnel may include the Court Director, Court Administrator, Deputy Court Administrator and Violations Clerk.
Information on Traffic Summonses
Once a traffic summons is issued, if you plan to plead not guilty, you must notify the Court at least seven days before your scheduled court date. (Address and other instructions can be found on back of summons). If you fail to notify court of your intentions, it may be necessary for you to make additional court appearances.
If you fail to appear in response to a summons or pay the prescribed penalty, additional penalties may result. A warrant may be issued and your driving privileges in New Jersey may be suspended.
It is very important that you arrive to court on the date and time stated on your ticket, summons, subpoena or court notice, assuming your ticket requires an appearance. Once you arrive, you should check in with the Court to make sure you are on the docket. If you arrive late or your name is not called, check with the court personnel.
All municipal court proceedings are tape recorded. The length of time you spend in court depends on many things. Some cases take longer than others. Please be patient so that the court may give each case the time and attention it deserves.
At the beginning of each court session, the Judge will give an opening statement, explaining court procedures, the defendant's rights and penalties. When each case is called, the Judge will individually advise each defendant of his/her rights. A case may be postponed to permit the defendant to retain a lawyer. If the defendant wishes to plead guilty, the Judge will ask questions regarding the incident to make sure there is basis for the guilty plea.
Pleading Not Guilty
If the defendant pleads not guilty and all parties involved are present, the case will proceed to trial. Once the Judge hears testimony, he/she will decide if the defendant is guilty, not guilty or if the case should be dismissed. If found guilty, the Judge will then impose a sentence.
If the court finds you guilty, you have twenty days in which to appeal the decision. Appeal packets are available in the Court Office. Appeals are filed with the Superior Court, Law Division in Trenton.
These charges are more serious criminal offenses, called indictable offenses, which can not be heard in Municipal Court. They are only scheduled for "first appearances" in Municipal Court. The charges are explained and your right to an attorney and other rights will be explained. These charges are then forwarded to the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.
The first time a defendant appears in court before a Judge to be advised of the charge(s) against him/her and what the possible penalties can be, it is called "first appearance." In most instances, only the defendant will be required to appear. After the Judge advises of the rights, the matter will be scheduled for a future date.
In other instances, when parties involved are citizen complainants, the Judge may order all parties to mediation.
This is a confidential process which allows the parties to meet with a mediator who will aid them in resolving their dispute. You may request mediation before court or the court will decide if your case is eligible. Mediation usually takes place on a different date then the court date and a date will be assigned.
Points / Surcharge
In addition to penalties imposed by the court for moving traffic violations, the Motor Vehicles Commission may also assess points for certain violations. The New Jersey Department of Insurance may also assess surcharges on insurance payments. If you are not sure if your violation carries points, you may inquire at New Jersey Courts, and then click on Point Schedule.
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Phone Numbers:
- License Suspension/ Restorations Phone: 609-292-7500
- Out of State Phone: 609-292-6500
- Toll Free Phone: 888-486-3339
Citizen Complaint (Traffic / Criminal)
To file a complaint with the Princeton Municipal Court, the incident must have occurred within Princeton. If the incident occurred within another jurisdiction, the complaint must be filed in that court. For more information on filing a complaint, please call the court at 609-924-5042.
Domestic violence acts may be reported to any local police department 24 hours a day.