Township of Readington, Hunterdon County, New Jersey

Municipal Court
509 Route 523
Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889
Phone: (908)534-2414
Fax: (908)534-8055

GLOSSARY OF LEGAL TERMS
What do they mean?

 

Judge An arbiter of justice, he or she is the lead who presides over a court of law, in this case, a municipal court.  He or she will be dressed in a black robe and sit at a bench in the front of the courtroom, center to the room.
Prosecutor The prosecutor is the legal attorney hired by the municipality to represent the State.  The prosecutor is responsible for presenting the case against an individual suspected of breaking a law.  He or She sits at the table on the right side of the podium, in front of the bench where the judge sits, during a trial
Defendant

The defendant is the person who has been formally accused of a violation.  The defendant  is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The defendant is informed of all charges lodged against him/her, possible penalties and his/her right to an attorney. The defendant also has the right to testify in his/her own defense, and also the right to not testify at all.  The defendant will sit with his/her defense attorney, public defender, or simply on his/her own to represent him/herself at a table to the left of the podium, in front of the bench where the judge sits during trial.

Public Defender The public defender is an attorney hired by the municipality to represent those defendants who have been found financially indigent and cannot afford an attorney on their own.  This attorney will sit at a table to the left of the podium, in front of the bench where the judge sits during trial.
Defense Attorney The defense attorney is a private lawyer hired by the defendant or the defendant's family to represent him/her in the municipal court, and speak to the prosecutor and judge on behalf of the defendant themselves.  The defendant is always required to be present during hearings for their court appearances, unless previously excused by the judge.  The defense attorney and defendant will sit at a table to the left of the podium, in front of the bench where the judge sits during trial.
Victim If there is a victim of a crime (a person who has been wronged in a certain way during the commission of a crime), he or she may be subpoenaed to testify against the defendant in their case.  If the defendant pleads guilty, and no trial is needed, the victim will not have to testify, but the victim DOES have the right to address the court and the judge before he decides what sentence to impose.
Witness A witness is someone who is subpoenaed for a court case because they have first hand information/knowledge of proof of a crime or possibly proof of innocence.  A witness can be summoned for court by either the prosecution or the defense.
Complainant The complainant in a case could either be a citizen signing a complaint against another citizen, or the complainant can be a police officer.  The complainant does not have the right to conduct direct-examination, nor cross-examination, should this case turn into a trial.  The complainant is considered a witness in the case, and the case is to be prosecuted by the prosecutor for the municipality.  If the complainant is a citizen, and wishes to have private legal representation, that attorney may make a motion to become the prosecutor on record for this particular case only. 
Fines Fines are a monetary penalty the judge imposes on a guilty finding in court.  Fines imposed on a summons or complaint are done so within guidelines set by the State of New Jersey.  Some fines are mandatory penalties that must be assessed by law.
Time Payment A time payment is a contract entered into and signed by the judge of the municipal court and the defendant, stating that the defendant can make payment on their fines court.  In order to qualify for a time payment, a financial questionnaire form must be completed and reviewed by the judge, and he must find that you are unable to make your payment in full. 
Financial Questionnaire

The official title of this packet of forms is called “Financial Questionnaire To Establish Indigency”.  This packet is a detailed list of questions to inquire of your finances and debt, and based on this, whether or not you qualify for either a time payment or the public defender (the financial questionnaire is used for both).

Conditional Discharge

The conditional discharge a one-time plea that a prosecutor can make with you for certain criminal drug charges.  These drug charges can not be indictable in nature, meaning requiring a Superior Court appearance.  If the judge accepts this plea and you enter into a conditional discharge, you will be required to pay certain mandatory fines, and be placed on a supervised probation lasting from 6 months to 1 year, at the judge's discretion.  Eligibility for this plea requires that you have never taken this plea in the past, nor have you entered into any Pre-Trial Intervention at the Superior Court level.  If you remain compliant with probation,  have no further arrests, and satisfy all the financial requirements, the original charges will be dismissed.

Mediation

Mediation is a process that allows both complainant and defendant to have a confidential meeting with an unbiased third-party (mediator) or a panel of same, to discuss the charges and try to resolve them without resulting in a criminal conviction.  Mediation is usually assigned by the judge and takes place in the Hunterdon County Justice Complex on a future date.  If a resolution is reached in mediation, and criminal charges were previously filed by the complainant, they can then be dismissed by the judge in court.

Unsafe Operation of MV

Unsafe Operation of a Motor Vehicle, also known as statute number 39:4-97.2,  is a moving violation statute that carries no points on a New Jersey driver's license.  It is also a statute that a prosecutor can use in a plea agreement with a defendant in place of an original moving violation that does carry points.  For more information on points and how they affect a New Jersey Driver's License, please click on the link for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, located on this Internet page.  Pleading to Unsafe Operation of a Motor Vehicle is allowed twice in five years with no points assessed.  If this plea is taken for a third time within five years, 4 points will be assessed on your driver's license.  There is a mandatory $250.00 surcharge, in addition to fines and court costs, that must be assessed on every plea of Unsafe Operation of a Motor Vehicle. 

Surety Owner of any monies posted for bail in a municipal court.