In New Jersey, traffic violations are not considered "crimes" nor even "offenses" as defined by the New Jersey Criminal Code. This does not mean the consequences of a traffic summons are not serious. In fact, drunk driving, the most serious driving offense heard in Municipal Court, is punishable by up to six months jail as well as high fines, license suspensions, and other onerous consequences.
Because traffic offenses are found under the Motor Vehicle Code, rather than the Criminal Code, individuals accused of traffic offenses do not enjoy the right to a jury trial or the right to have their cases presented to a grand jury. In almost all other respects, however, defendants in Municipal Court enjoy the same protections which they would have in Superior Court. For instance, a person charged with a traffic offense cannot be convicted unless the case against him/her is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, once subject to jeopardy in Municipal Court, such person cannot be tried for the same offense in Superior Court. Further, a defendant in Municipal Court is entitled to a speedy trial and to have appointed counsel if unable to afford a private lawyer when facing drunk driving or other serious charges.
Defendants in Municipal Court are permitted to plea bargain virtually all traffic matters, with the notable exception of drunk driving. For any summons which carries motor vehicle points, it always pays to fight a traffic ticket rather than merely mailing in payment with a guilty plea. This is true whether you hire my office, another lawyer, or fight the ticket yourself. I am always available for a free consultation to discuss options with respect to any ticket you receive in New Jersey.