The Criminal Court System in New Jersey
The great majority of criminal cases in New Jersey are filed in the Municipal Courts, which are generally operated by townships, boroughs or cities. The criminal cases filed in the Municipal Courts are either traffic-related, or fall under the category of disorderly persons offenses. Indictable offenses, on the other hand, are prosecuted in Superior Court.
Municipal Court Offenses
The Municipal Courts have jurisdiction to hear four types of cases:
- Traffic and motor vehicle infractions, from parking tickets to speeding or reckless driving, from operating a vehicle without a license to driving while intoxicated
- Disorderly persons offenses-Typically, these are minor infractions, including possession of marijuana under 50 grams, petty larceny, and public lewdness, among a whole host of crimes
- Violation of municipal ordinances, including housing, zoning and other local laws
- Infractions involving the parks and forests, or state fish and game laws
Indictable offenses are arraigned in Municipal Court, but then sent to the local prosecutor, who determines whether the case should be taken to a Grand Jury (which will potentially return an indictment), or returned to Municipal Court with a downgrade to a lesser offense.
Superior Court Offenses
The Superior Court has jurisdiction over indictable offenses. Some of the common indictable offenses in New Jersey are:
- Possession of “controlled dangerous substances (CDRs),” such as heroin, cocaine or meth
- Sale, trafficking or distribution of controlled substances, or possession with intent to distribute
- Aggravated assault
- Weapons violations