Court Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I Pay the Summons without Going to Court?
- When is a Court Appearance Required?
- How Do I Enter a Not Guilty Plea?
- What do I do if there is a Warrant for My Arrest?
- Who is Entitled to the Public Defender?
- What is a Plea Agreement?
- How do I Present My Case at Trial?
- What is Conditional Discharge?
- To Whom is Bail Returned?
- How Can I Appeal My Case?
Questions regarding the information contained in this Web page, or any questions or concerns you may have about Pascack Joint Municipal Court should be directed to the court office at 201-391-5701.
If you wish to plead guilty and give up your right to a trial, you may do so provided "court appearance required" has not been checked on the ticket and provided the charge is listed on the State or Local Violations Schedule. To pay your summons, bring or mail it, together with the correct payment, to:
A receipt will be sent if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your payment. Payment is due by the court date listed on the summons. Alternately, you may make credit card payments online at NJMC Direct.
Payments received after the appearance date may be assessed additional penalties. Failure to pay a traffic ticket may result in a suspension of your driving privileges and the issuance of a warrant.
When is a Court Appearance Required?A criminal charge always requires your appearance in court. In traffic or other matters, if "court appearance required" is checked on the ticket, you must appear in court at the time and place indicated, even if you wish to plead guilty. If "court appearance required" is not checked on the traffic ticket, you must still appear in court if:
- You wish to have a trial
- The charge is not listed on the State or Local Violations Schedule
- Personal injury is involved
If you intend to plead not guilty to the offense charged in the summons you must notify the court of your intention at least seven days before your scheduled court date. Failure to do so may cause unnecessary court appearances.
During regular business hours you may post bail at the court office. After hours, bail may be posted at your local Police Department or any other Police Department in New Jersey. Once bail is posted, you will receive a date to appear in court. In some minor traffic offenses, a bail waiver may be submitted. A bail waiver allows you to apply the bail to pay fines, costs and contempt penalties, eliminating the need to appear in court.
- The charge presents a risk of the defendant going to jail, losing driving privileges, or receiving a substantial fine.
- The court determines that the defendant is unable to afford an attorney.
The New Jersey Supreme Court allows plea agreements to be made within the municipal courts except in drunk driving and certain drug-related cases. A plea agreement is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor about how the case will be resolved. 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 one's license. Certain charges may be dismissed or a specific sentence may be recommended. Before trial, a defendant may speak with the prosecutor to try to settle his or her case through this process.
You must have your witnesses present in court on the day of trial. If they will not come to court voluntarily, you may ask the court administrator to provide you with subpoenas to require them to appear in court. Written statements of witnesses are not allowed - the person must appear in court.
In a trial, the prosecutor calls each of the State's witnesses and asks them questions. You will have a chance to ask them questions (to cross-examine them). After the prosecutor has called all of the State's witnesses, you have the opportunity to make a statement under oath (to testify) on your own behalf and to call any witnesses you may have. You have a constitutional right to remain silent - the decision about whether to testify is yours. If you do testify, the prosecutor can ask you questions and may also ask questions of your witnesses.
This program allows defendants charged with certain drug offenses to be placed on probation for a period of time determined by the court. It is a diversionary program for first-time offenders, which allows charges to be dismissed if the defendant successfully completes probation. The judge or probation department may require that the defendant get drug counseling, have random drug tests, or other conditions. To be eligible, a defendant must have:
- Never been convicted of a drug offense in this State or any other State.
- Never been granted a conditional discharge before.
- Never received pre-trial intervention or pre-trial diversion in any State or Federal Court.
The judge ultimately determines who is eligible for a conditional discharge. If granted, the defendant must pay mandatory assessments, and the judge may suspend his or her driving privileges. If the defendant complies with all conditions of the program, including satisfying all financial obligations, the charges will be dismissed in court. If new offenses have been committed during the probation period, the defendant may be tried on the original charge(s) and the new offenses.
Bail is money deposited with the court to release a defendant from jail and to assure the defendant's future appearance in court. Bail can only be returned to the person who posted it. Bail will not be returned until the case is concluded. The bail receipt should be brought to the court to speed the return of bail. It may be possible to have the bail applied to any fines or assessments that may be imposed by the court.
If a defendant does not agree with the court's decision, she or he may appeal to the Bergen County Superior Court. The appeal does not involve a new trial. No new testimony or new witnesses may be considered. The superior court reviews the transcript of the municipal court trial and the decision of the municipal court judge, and will reverse the decision only if there has been a mistake made regarding the facts or the law. An appeal must be filed within 20 days of the municipal court judge's decision. Filing fee and transcript deposits are due at that time. Upon request, the court administrator will supply any defendant with all the necessary forms to be filed to appeal the decision. The defendant may request that his or her penalty be stayed pending the appeal. The municipal court judge will decide whether or not to do so.