Bridge Reconstruction Notice

Beginning on or about Friday, June 23, 2017 Mercer County D.O.T. will commence bridge repairs on a structure located along Blackwell Road between Cold Soil Road and Federal City Road.

Repairs will consist of complete bridge replacement, necessitating a full 24/7 closure of Blackwell Road. 

During construction, Blackwell Road up to the bridge will be open to local residents but the bridge will be fully closed to through traffic.

A detour will be posted directing motorists to use Federal City Road, Lawrenceville-Pennington Road, Keefe Road and Cold Soil Road.

This project is anticipated to take approximately 90 days to complete, weather permitting.

 

 

Bridge Reconstruction Notice

On or about Monday, December 5, 2016 the Mercer County Department of Transportation and Infrastructure will start the rehabilitation of the two bridges on River Drive, one over Fiddlers Creek, and one over Steele Run, which have been closed for over three years.

Sections of River Drive, near these two bridges, will remain closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic for the duration of the project.

This project is to be completed in 150 calendar days, weather permitting.

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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GUIDE TO MUNICIPAL COURT
 

What Is The Municipal Court?

The municipal court is a local court created by state law, whose jurisdiction is confined to the city or community in which it is located. Practices and procedures are governed by New Jersey Court Rules. The municipal court judge is responsible for overseeing the administration of the municipal court. The Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of Mercer County (whose office is located in Trenton) is responsible for overseeing the administration of all of the municipal courts in the county.

There are 13 municipal courts in Mercer County. Each municipality appoints its own municipal court judge or judges. Other court personnel may include the court administrator, deputy court administrator, violations clerk and sound recorder. TOP

 
 

What Type of Cases Are Heard in Municipal Court?

Cases heard in municipal courts are divided into four general categories:

  • violations of motor vehicle and traffic laws,
  • violations of disorderly and petty disorderly persons offenses, (criminal matters which may result in fines or jail),
  • violations of Fish and Game laws, Parks and Forests, Weights and Measures, SPCA and Boating Regulations,
  • violations of municipal ordinances (local laws).

More serious offenses, known as indictable offenses, are sent to the county prosecutors office. The county prosecutor decides whether to present the case to a grand jury or to return the case to the municipal court as a less serious offense (a downgrade). TOP

 
 

When Is a Court Appearance Required?

A court appearance is required in criminal matters, such as an assault, shoplifting, harassment or drug charges. If "court appearance required" is checked on a traffic summons, 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, or
  • the charge is not listed on the Statewide Violations Bureau Schedule or Local Supplemental Violations Bureay Schedule (it cannot be paid by mail or in the court office), or
  • personal injury is involved.

Please notify the court of disability accommodation needs. TOP

 
 

How Do I Enter a Not Guilty Plea?

If you intend to plead not guilty to the offense charged on the summons and you want to have a trial, you must notify the court at least seven days before your scheduled court date. (Address and other instructions can be found on your summons.) If you fail to notify the court, it may be necessary for you to make two court appearances.

It is imperative that the person directly involved with the case, not a friend or relative, contact the court. This will help speed inquiries. It is also imperative that you have your summons/complaint number when calling or writing so that we may be better able to assist you. TOP

 
 

What Happens On Your Day in Court?

It is very important that you arrive in court on the day and time stated on your ticket, summons, subpoena or court notice. Before the session starts, or once court begins, roll call is generally taken. If you arrive late, or if your name is not called, you should notify court personnel immediately.

If the defendant does not appear, the judge will advise all witness when they may leave. Witnesses will be notified through the mail when they are to return. A warrant may be issued for the defendant who fails to appear, and his or her driving privileges may be suspended.

All municipal court proceedings are tape recorded. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone in the courtroom to remain quiet until it is their turn to speak. The length of time you will be 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 the court session, the judge will give an opening statement, explaining court procedures, Defendants' rights, and penalties. As each case is called, the judge will individually advise each defendant of his or her rights. A case may be postponed to permit the defendant to hire a lawyer. If the defendant wishes to go ahead without a lawyer, the judge will ask for his or her plea. If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge will ask questions regarding the offense charged to make sure there is a basis for the guilty plea.

If the defendant pleads not guilty and all involved parties are present and prepared, the case will proceed to trial. Once the judge has heard the testimony, he or she will decide if the defendant is guilty, not guilty, or if the case should be dismissed. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty after a trial, the judge will impose a sentence. TOP

 
 

In What Order Are Cases Called?

The order in which cases are called is controlled by the New Jersey Court Rules. Cases are generally called in the following order:

  1.  Requests for postponements
  2.  Unlitigated motions
  3.  Arraignments (Advising defendants of rights and penalties)
  4.  Guilty pleas
    a. where defendant is represented by an attorney

    b. where defendant is not represented by an attorney
  5. Litigated motions
  6. Not guilty pleas
    a. where defendant is represented by an attorney
    b. where defendant is not represented by an attorney

INDICTABLE CHARGES

The more serious Criminal offenses, called indictable offenses, are scheduled for an "arraignment or first appearance" in the Municipal Court. The charges will be explained and your right to an attorney will be discussed. These charges are forwarded to the Mercer County Prosecutor. An application for public defender representation in Superior Court will be completed at the municipal court and forwarded to the Superior Court. TOP

ARRAIGNMENTS OR FIRST APPEARANCES

The first time the defendant will appear before the judge to be advised of the charges against him or her and what the possible penalties can be is called an arraignment or first appearance. In some instances, only the defendant will be required to appear at that date. If this is the case, an opportunity to present both defendants' and complainants' case will be scheduled for a future date.

In other instances both the defendant and the complainant are noticed to appear on that first date. If this is the case, the judge may proceed with a plea or trial. At this appearance, the judge may also order all parties to mediation. TOP

 
 

Who Are the People Involved?

Complainant: The complainant is the person who signed the complaint. This can be a private citizen or police officer. The State's representation in municipal court is the municipal prosecutor. Once a complaint has been filed, it cannot be withdrawn and it cannot be dismissed without the consent of the municipal prosecutor. The complainant may be called as a witness for the state.

Defendant: The defendant is the person formally accused of the violation. The defendant will be informed of the charges, possible penalties, and his or her right to an attorney. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof is always on the state. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant committed each part of the offense charged. The defendant has the right to testify or not testify.

Victim: If there is a trial, the victim may be called as a witness. If the defendant pleads guilty, no trial is needed but the victim has the right to address the court before the judge decides what sentence to impose.

Prosecutor: The prosecutor is the lawyer hired by the municipality to represent the state.

Public Defender: The public defender is the lawyer hired by the municipality to represent those defendants who cannot afford an attorney.

Defense Attorney: The defense attorney is the lawyer hired by the defendant.

Witness: The witness is someone who testifies or offers evidence in court. TOP

 
 

Who Is Entitled To A Public Defender?

A defendant is entitled to be represented by the public defender when:

  • the charge presents a risk of the defendant going to jail, losing driving privileges, or receiving a substantial fine and
  • the court determines that the defendant is unable to afford an attorney.

The defendant will be required to complete an application form that can be obtained from the court. The judge will review the application and based on eligibility guidelines established, decide if the defendant qualifies for a public defender. If the town has established an ordinance, a fee of up to $200.00 may be imposed on the defendant for services of the public defender. Hopewell Township has adopted such an ordinance. TOP

 

What Is A Plea Agreement?

Before trial, a defendant may speak with the prosecutor to try to settle his or her case through a plea agreement.

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. The judge must approve all plea agreements. TOP

 
 

What Happens During a Trial?

There are no jury trials in the municipal court. On the trial date, the judge will take testimony from all witnesses under oath. The defendant and his or her lawyer, if represented, will sit at one table. The prosecutor will sit at the other table. Witnesses may be asked to stay outside the courtroom until it is their turn to testify. The prosecutor will go first and will present any witnesses or evidence needed to prove the charge against the defendant. Each witness will either swear or affirm to tell the truth. As each witness for the prosecution testifies, the defendant or his or her lawyer, if represented, will have an opportunity to ask questions about the testimony. This is called cross-examination.

Once the prosecution is finished, it will be the defendant's turn. The defendant may present witnesses or other evidence to disprove the prosecutor's case. The defendant does not have to provide any information and does not have to testify. It is up to the prosecution to prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt."

When all the witnesses have testified, the defendant or his or her lawyer may tell the judge why the case was not proven against the defendant.

The judge, after hearing all the testimony and witnesses, will make the decision whether the case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge finds the defendant "not guilty," the case is over.

If the judge finds the defendant "guilty," the judge will sentence the defendant. TOP

 

What Are The Possible Penalties?

Fines

The judge must follow the law in deciding the amount of any fine imposed. Sometimes there are minimum penalties and mandatory assessments that must be imposed by the law. Fines are generally expected to be paid at the time they are imposed.

The judge may allow the fine to be paid in installments if the he/she is satisfied that payment cannot be made in full. You may apply for partial payments by filling out a form. The judge will then make a decision about your payment arrangements. You will sign a court order that will explain the terms of your payments. Failure to comply with this order may result in a warrant for your arrest and/or suspension of your driving privileges.

Jail

The maximum jail term that can be imposed for offenses heard in municipal court is six months. The sentence is served at the Mercer County Correction Center. Work release or SLAP is coordinated through the Mercer County Correction Center Work Release Administrator.

License Suspension

Some offenses require suspension of your driving privileges for a minimum period. You cannot drive for any reason until the period of suspension ends, you have paid your restoration fee to the Motor Vehicle Commission, and have received written notification from the Motor Vehicle Commissionthat your driving privileges have been restored. If your license has been suspended for failure to appear, pay fines or comply with a condition of your sentence, it generally will not be restored until your case is completed.

Community Service

By law, the judge must order community service for certain traffic and criminal offenses. The Mercer County Probation Division is responsible for the placement and monitoring of defendants who have been sentence to community service. Failure to perform community service may result in the case being returned to court.

Points/Surcharges

In addition to penalties imposed by the court for moving traffic violations, the Motor Vehicle Commission may also assess points on your driving record. Most violations result in two points, but it can be as high as eight for a single offense. The New Jersey Department of Insurance may also assess surcharges on insurance payments. TOP

 
 

What Is Mediation?

The judge or court administrator may suggest that the parties try to settle their differences through mediation. This is a confidential process which allows the parties to meet with mediators who will aid them in resolving their dispute. You may request mediation before your court date and the court will decide if your case is eligible. Often mediation takes place on the same day as court. If this is not possible, a future date will be assigned. You may request mediation instead of filing a formal complaint. TOP

 
 

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. The judge may require the defendant to attend drug counseling and have random drug tests. To be eligible, a defendant must have:

  •  never been convicted of a drug offense in any state or federal court, and
  •  never been granted a conditional discharge before, and
  •  never received pre-trial intervention or pre-trial diversion in any state or federal court.

If granted a conditional discharge, the defendant must pay mandatory assessments and the judge may suspend their 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 charge(s) will be dismissed. TOP

 

How Can I Appeal My Case?

If you do not agree with the court's decision, you may appeal to the Mercer 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 regarding the facts of the law.

An appeal must be filed within 20 days of the municipal court judge's decision. A filing fee and transcript deposit is due at that time. Upon request, the court administrator will supply the defendant with all of the necessary forms to be filed with the court office 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. TOP

 

 

 

 
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