Juvenile Court vs Municipal Court: Who Controls?

Which Court Decides a Minor’s Case?


When a juvenile gets into trouble with the law, parents often are unsure what the next step is. Many people are often confused whether their child will have to go to court and if so, which court they will go to. The law is generally straightforward, and specifies which court has jurisdiction over the offense. Jurisdiction of the court is determined by the offense the juvenile is charged with. The first thing any parent should do if their child gets into trouble with the law is to call an experienced New Jersey Juvenile Court Attorney. A qualified Attorney can answer your questions as to the jurisdiction of the court(s) over your child’s case and can help you plan an appropriate legal strategy to take.

New Jersey law states that Municipal Courts do not have jurisdiction over any criminal or disorderly person’s violations involving minors (those under 18) when crime was committed. These are most of the typical offenses you think of when you think of a “juvenile delinquency” charge, including shoplifting, minor drug charges, simple assault, etc. One area where the Municipal Court does have jurisdiction over a juvenile is traffic tickets. Most motor vehicle offenses will be heard in Municipal Court regardless of the fact that the offender is a minor.

Many young offenders are often confused about how to proceed when they receive a traffic ticket and are summoned to Municipal Court. Since Municipal Court has a different purpose for its existence that Juvenile Court, (rehabilitation of the juvenile), the Municipal Court often will not take into consideration the age of the minor and the prosecutor will seek the full penalty for the offense committed. It is important to know that young offenders have rights, in the Municipal Court system. Hiring a Municipal Court Attorney at Hanlon Niemann & Wright is often the best thing to do, as they can inform you of how the system works and prepare an appropriate plan of action to see that your best interests are met. Whether it be negotiating with the prosecutor for a plea deal or defending you against the prosecution’s case, a Municipal Court Attorney ensures that someone has your best interests at heart.

One must also be aware that certain more serious offenses committed by juveniles will not be decided in the Juvenile Courts or for that matter, the Municipal Court, but rather in the New Jersey Superior Court, where adult criminal cases are held. Adult criminal court is for the most serious cases, usually involving murder or significantly violent crimes. In order for a juvenile’s case to appear before a Superior Court however, it must first be waived up by the Juvenile Court. Essentially what happens is the prosecution will request that the juvenile be tried in the Superior Court. The juvenile court judge will determine whether the facts of the case warrant such a move.

When a juvenile commits a serious crime, it is imperative they hire an experienced Juvenile Law Attorney. While a juvenile court judge ultimately has the decision whether or not a case will be waived up to Superior Court, your attorney can argue against the prosecution’s motion for waiver or choose not to object it if he or she believes the move may actually help you. Superior Courts guarantee a trial by jury, something not offered by the Juvenile Courts, but also the Superior Court has a much harsher sentencing schedule and can result in imprisonment with adult inmates, something that is often not worth risking. In cases where a juvenile is accused of a serious crime and the prosecution is seeking a waiver to the Superior Court, it is of the utmost importance the young person charged hires a knowledgeable attorney to look after their rights… and their future.

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.

Defending a juvenile can be complex. It is important that you seek a qualified attorney to represent their needs, whether it is in Juvenile Court for shoplifting or Municipal Court for a traffic ticket. Call Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com. Mr. Niemann’s office has qualified Juvenile and Municipal Court Attorneys who will be there to help you with your case. Mr. Niemann has raised four kids himself, so he knows what it’s like to deal with the New Jersey Court system. You’ll find his office comfortable to work with to achieve the best results.



Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Juvenile Court Attorney