Pleading Not Guilty to Charges in Middlesex Municipal Court
If you were issued a traffic ticket or charged with certain criminal offenses in Middlesex, you will be sent a summons from the Middlesex Municipal Court. A summons will provide a date upon which the accused must appear in court if the charges were for any type of criminal offense. If the charges are for a traffic violation, the accused may be able to pay a fine in advance and avoid having to appear in court.
A Summons Date Is Not a Trial Date
The summons date is not a trial date. It is a date that you must either appear in court or by which you must have made full payment for traffic offenses by that date. If you wish to contest any charges and plead “not guilty” to an offense you must take certain steps in advance of your summons date. You cannot contest charges on the date you were originally summoned, you must do so before your court date.
In traffic offenses, if you do not appear in court, or pay the traffic fine, it is the same thing as admitting to guilt for the traffic offense.
Contesting Charges – How to Plead Not Guilty in Middlesex Municipal Court
You may plead “not guilty” to any charge levied against you. However, to do so, you must contact the Middlesex Municipal Court and notify them that you intend to plead not guilty before your summons date. The Court will then schedule you for case management and send you a hearing date to the address they have on file for you. If you move, or do not receive a hearing date in the mail, it is still your responsibility to contact the Court to find out your hearing date. Even if you did not receive your hearing notice in the mail, if you do not show up for your hearing, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest and assess bail.
When you appear in court for case management you will be able to speak to the prosecutor and he will advise you of a possible plea agreement. This may sound like a simple process, but it is not and you should always have an attorney represent you if you plan to contest charges. The Middlesex Municipal Court prosecutor does not have to offer any agreement to accept lessor charges or to drop the charges against you. If the prosecutor does make an offer to reduce charges you do not have to accept it.
Having an attorney with you assures you that someone who understands the law and your rights will be on your side. The prosecutor’s job is not to defend you nor to represent your best interests.
If the prosecutor makes an offer, the judge will advise you of your rights and penalties that may be imposed for your violation and will reschedule your case for trial. The trial date will come to you via regular mail.
What to Bring With You to Trial
At trial, your attorney will present documentation, witnesses, and other evidence in your defense. Your attorney will advise you if you need to bring anything with you to court.
If You Live Outside the State and Cannot Appear in Middlesex Municipal Court
Middlesex Municipal Court allows some defendants who live outside the state of New Jersey to defend themselves by affidavit. However, defendants’ rights are limited. If you were charged with a serious crime, or an offense that carries “penalties of great consequence” you will likely have to appear in court even if you live outside the state.
The Court must approve your right to defend yourself by affidavit in advance of your trial date. If you are approved, the Court will send you a form to complete asking you to explain the circumstances of the offense(s) you were charged with. The form must be notarized and returned to the Court before your schedule court date.
It is important that you understand that if you exercise your right to defend yourself by affidavit, that you forfeit the right to appear in court and to cross examine any witnesses. The judge will read your affidavit and listen to the complaints against you and make a decision. The judge’s ruling will be sent to you in the mail.
Put Our Experience to Work Protecting Your Record
The consequences that flow from convictions for traffic violations or disorderly persons offenses could affect many things from the cost of car insurance to future employment opportunities to your education. A conviction can cause you to lose a scholarship, and some colleges and universities may refuse to admit someone with a serious conviction on record.
At Clark, Clark & Noonan, LLC. we have the skill and experience to investigate your case, analyze the evidence, and advise you on a course of action that is best for you. Whether we are seeking a dismissal, negotiating the best plea deal available, or defending your legal rights at a trial, we understand the system and how to make it best work for you. Call us at 732-303-7857 for a free consultation.