What I should expect when I go to court?
- When you arrive at the Readington Township Municipal Court, you will be required to enter through a metal detector and are subject to screenings of your bags and/or personal belongings by court officers. This is to ensure the safety of everyone in the courtroom. If you have a medical condition preventing you from passing through the metal detector, please contact the Municipal Court office prior to your court date, to make proper arrangements.
- Once through the metal detector, directly in front and to the left of you, you will see court calendars posted on a bulletin board. Please make sure to check all of the pages for your name, to make sure you are scheduled for court. If you do not see your name on any of the pages of the court calendar, please check with court staff at the payment window.
- Prior to entering the courtroom, please make sure to turn off or silence all phones and pagers.
- Upon entering the courtroom, please make a single file line to the right side of the room, against the wall. This is where the court administrator will check you in, individually, and advise you to have a seat in the courtroom.
- Once the judge takes the bench, he will give an opening statement explaining court procedures, defendants' rights, and penalties. These proceedings are sound recorded, so please remain quiet until it is your time to speak. The judge will then call the names of all defendants scheduled for court that evening.
- Typically during roll call, defendants who are scheduled for their trial date will be called first and released to speak to the prosecutor. First appearances will then be called next to have their charges explained and make their pleas. Plea agreements turned in to the court officer will be heard by the judge in the order they are received. If a plea agreement can not be reached between the defendant and the prosecutor, a trial will be held.
- NOT GUILTY PLEAS: If you have previously pled Not Guilty, the judge will advise you, once your name is called and your confirm your presence, that you may then go out of the courtroom to make a single file line to speak to the Prosecutor in his office. Once in the Prosecutor's office, you have the opportunity to discuss your charge(s) and possibly make a plea agreement in reference to settling the charge(s) against you. The New Jersey Supreme Court allows plea agreements to be made in municipal courts. In exchange for a guilty plea, the Prosecutor has the option to amend your charge to a lesser charge, or one that will result in less points on your driver's license. The Prosecutor may also recommend a lesser sentence on your plea agreement. You are not required to speak to the prosecutor, and all plea agreements made with the Prosecutor must be approved by the judge. If a plea agreement is made, you will receive a plea agreement form, which you are required to sign, as well as the Prosecutor. Upon exiting the Prosecutor's office with this agreement, the yellow copy is yours to keep for your records. The white copy may be turned into the court officer in the front of the courtroom, so your file can be pulled, and the judge can address your plea in open court. If you plead guilty, or are found guilty, and fines are assessed, payment can be made at the payment window of the Municipal Court office. Fines are to be paid in full upon disposition of your case. Under certain circumstances, the court may permit you to pay over a period of time. If you wish to be placed on a time payment, please request the proper paperwork from the payment window, and once completed, the judge will review and decide on a proper payment schedule for you.
- FIRST APPEARANCES: If you are scheduled as a first appearance, the Judge will call you to the podium near the front of the courtroom. The Judge will then recite the charge(s) against you and ask if you understand what the charge(s) is. If you do not understand what you are being charged with, please make sure to ask the judge to explain them to you. He will gladly do so. The judge will then ask you how you are intending to plea to your summons. If you decide to plead Not Guilty on the record, the judge will then verify that the Municipal Court office has your correct mailing address and you will be released from court for the evening. A trial date will be set with the officer who issued the summons/complaint within two (2) to four (4) weeks from the date of your first appearance to give you significant time to obtain representation by a private attorney if you wish, or by a public defender, if you qualify, to prepare your defense. This trial date will be mailed to you within 5 business days of your first appearance. If you do not receive your new court date in the mail within 1 week, please contact the Municipal Court office. If you think you need the services of an interpreter, please notify the municipal court administrator prior to your appearance in court.
- TRIALS: If a plea agreement can not be reached between the defendant and the prosecutor, the judge will preside over a trial to determine whether you are guilty or not guilty. The trial may be held that day, but in certain circumstances, it may be rescheduled. In a trial, the prosecutor first will call the state's witnesses (witnesses against you), called direct examination. They will answer the prosecutor's questions and present any other evidence they have. When the prosecutor is finished with each witness, you, or your attorney, will be permitted to ask them questions about their testimony, called cross-examination. When the prosecutor's case is complete, it will be your turn to call witnesses and present evidence on your behalf. You may testify, although you are not required to do so. If you testify, the prosecutor can ask you questions (cross-examine you). The burden of proof rests solely on the Prosecution. Their case must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. After all witnesses and evidence have been presented, the judge will take all of the evidence presented into consideration, and make a ruling on the matter based on his interpretation of the law. If you are found Not Guilty, the case is now over. If you are found guilty, the judge will impose a suitable sentence commiserate with the violation committed.