At one time or another, a large percentage of otherwise law-abiding citizens find themselves on the wrong side of a municipal ordinance. From parking and speeding tickets to disputes with neighbors, offenses may be inadvertent or simply careless.
Other offenses like shoplifting and domestic violence may accompany underlying issues that can include mental illness or anger management issues.
Whatever the municipal offense or the circumstances around it, having a municipal court attorney on your side can play a significant role in reducing or eliminating penalties, protecting you from a criminal record and preserving your ability to drive or even work.
These are some of the common municipal violations that may warrant the assistance of an experienced attorney, and how an attorney can make a difference in your outcome.
Traffic Violations And DWIs
If you’ve ever been stuck mid-intersection in the middle of a city during your rush hour commute, you know how easy it is to find yourself in violation of a traffic ordinance. Parking and speeding tickets, careless driving, driving with a suspended license or without insurance – all of these can lead to penalties, fines and even the loss of your driver’s license.
In New Jersey, the Unsafe Driving Act eliminates the penalty of points on your license but it imposes much larger fines and may result in a suspended license.
An experienced municipal court attorney can help to get penalties reduced or even eliminated. For example, high-penalty violations can be pled down to lesser ones like obstructing traffic or failing to observe a traffic signal. In the case of cell phone violations, a third offense means a suspended license. That makes it even more important to have a lawyer who can help reduce the charges.
In the case of a DWI, your attorney will try to keep the penalty to minimum, or even have the case dismissed by exploiting common inaccuracies with breathalyzer tests.
Sometimes, simply having an attorney show up in court is enough to get a violation thrown out. In order for a violation to be enforced, the issuing officer must also appear in court. In a surprising number of cases, this doesn’t happen. Without the officer present, assuming you have honored the court appearance, the case will be dismissed.
Domestic violence cases are emotionally charged and can also be complicated, with each party having their own interpretation of events. After a heated exchange, the charge may be warranted. Other times, the charge may come as a result of a contentious divorce.
Circumstances can also be complicated by anger management concerns or drug and alcohol issues. Whatever your situation, an experienced attorney will ask the right questions, listen carefully, examine the evidence and be honest and straightforward with you about your role in events.
In minor cases, an attorney can help to have the charges downgraded and negotiate a deal on your behalf that eliminates penalties and keeps you free of a criminal record. For example, charges may be dropped upon your agreement to keep your distance from the accuser. This can help protect you both – you from being accused, and the other party from feeling threatened.
An attorney is especially important if you’re dealing with anger or drug and alcohol issues. If you are emotionally unsteady or volatile, you’re probably not in the best position to defend yourself. Any angry words or outburst on your part can damage your chances of a favorable outcome.
Simply having an attorney who understands your situation can go a long way to keeping you calm and helping you respond appropriately. Your attorney will be able to navigate the legal complexities so you don’t have to assume the added burden.
Minor Theft And Shoplifting
If you just robbed a bank, then you’ll want a criminal defense attorney. But for many common crimes involving theft, a municipal court attorney can help to reduce penalties, help you avoid jail time, and eliminate criminal records.
Depending on the value of the items stolen, you could face hundreds – or tens of thousands – of dollars in fines, and months or years of jail time. A conviction can have serious consequences, affecting your ability to get a job or qualify for a loan.
A qualified attorney can negotiate to protect your interests. For example, a misdemeanor may be reduced to an infraction, which comes with a substantially lower fine and no jail time. Instead of jail time, you may need only to spend the night in court and then be released upon an agreement for restitution.
Much like theft, drug charges come with the potential for substantial fines and jail time. Conviction can affect your ability to get a job, mar your college application or result in years in state prison.
Many factors come into play, including whether or not you have a prior conviction, how much of the controlled substance you possess, whether you are charged with possession or distribution, and even the type of substance you are charged with possessing.
It’s vital to have the aid of an experienced and qualified attorney, since the result of the charges may not only have a significant impact now, but can have far-reaching and long term consequences if you are ever charged again.
An attorney will bring to light any improper activities on the part of officials, which may include anything from unlawful search and seizure to forced confessions or simple mistakes. Jail time can be reduced or avoided upon an agreement to enter a drug rehabilitation program.
What that means is that you’ll need someone on your side who understands your situation, knows the system and can fight to protect your interests.
If you’ve been charged with a municipal violation, don’t wait to contact an attorney. The sooner you address the issue, the likelier that your attorney can help you achieve a more favorable outcome. If you need help, contact us for a free consultation to discuss your options.