What is a Municipal Ordinance in NJ
Any town may enact rules that impact the town, also known as town ordinances. Most often, towns pass laws that involve the peace and enjoyment, property, and civility of its citizens. However, local governments in New Jersey have very few ways to raise revenue. Filing a violation of a local ordinance against a resident or visitor to the town is one easy way to generate money for town operations. If you violate an ordinance or receive a municipal ordinance violation in New Jersey, you will receive a court notice and must answer the complaint by going to municipal court. Here’s what you need to know about municipal ordinance violations in New Jersey. Please feel free to contact our firm to speak with an experienced defense attorney about how an ordinance may be applied in your case. You can reach us anytime by calling 201-556-1570.
Is a Municipal Ordinance Violation a Criminal Offense in New Jersey?
Violating a town ordinance is not considered a crime or disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. Under NJ Law, a crime is also known as a felony or indictable offense. Crimes are punishable by state prison terms and/or probation and are heard in Superior Court. Crimes will also show up on a criminal background check and may impact your employment and other opportunities. Disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses also show up on a criminal background check and are considered “quasi-criminal.” They are not felonies but can impact your future and are punishable by a county jail sentence and possible term of probation. If you have a case involving an ordinance violation or a disorderly persons offense, you will be required to attend municipal court in the town where you allegedly committed the violation.
Examples of NJ Town Ordinances
Common examples of municipal ordinance violations include:
- Disturbing the peace
- Building code violations
- Unkempt property (long grass or junk on the lawn)
- Public intoxication; and
- Urinating in public
For example, many seaside towns have enacted ordinances that are designed to provide a better quality of life. Seaside Heights has a new ordinance that makes it a violation to rent to anyone under 18. It used to be that Landlord or homeowner could rent to anyone 18 and over, but that person would not have to be on the premises. Typically, parents would sign the rental agreement for their children to stay overnight during such events as proms or graduation and the parent would not have on stay on site. Now, however, the parent or person who signed the rental must be on the premises and that person is liable for the drug use, noise, damage or underage drinking of the occupants. The fine is a minimum of $1000 for each act resulting in a violation and up to 30 days in jail.
Another example of a municipal violation is consumption of alcohol by a minor in a public place or car. It may be illegal in some towns for minors to consume alcohol in public: on the street at the beach, or in the park. In Seaside Borough and many other towns at the Jersey Shore, if you drink in public as a minor you can be fined a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $1200 and also face jail time. Underage drinking is also considered a criminal offense in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15.
As an adult homeowner, your town may have a law against letting your grass grow too long. In many cases, the town will have someone cut your grass and then charge you the fee. The town can even levy a lien against your property. In some cases, failure to stop the violation can cause fines to continue to accrue and compound, making it difficult to get yourself out of a situation.
Received a Ticket for Violating a Town Ordinance, Now What?
If you are issued an ordinance violation, you should always follow the court notice and show up as instructed. You will be directed to the municipal court where the violation allegedly occurred. Under New Jersey Title 40:49-5, you can be ordered to pay substantial penalties and fines as much as $2000 for a violation of a local ordinance. In some cases, you can spend up to 90 days in jail for a violation and be ordered to perform community service. Any potential loss of your liberty is not to be taken lightly.
Can a Municipal Ordinance ever be a Positive Outcome?
Yes. In some cases, your attorney may be able get your charges downgraded from a disorderly persons offense, which is technically a criminal offense, to an ordinance violation, which is not a criminal conviction on your record. You may have to pay a fine, similar to any other ticket, but this is a much better outcome than having something on your criminal record to will appear on a background check. Our skilled New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm often help clients facing charges for disorderly conduct and other criminal offenses have their charges reduced to ordinances. This can protect your future from the hindrance of a criminal record and is often a great way to avoid having to say you have been convicted of a criminal offense when asked on an application for work or school.
Contact Municipal Violation Lawyers serving Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, & New Brunswick
If you have been charged with criminal offense or accused of violating a municipal ordinance in New Jersey, you need to discuss your options with a knowledgeable attorney. Call us at 201-556-1570 and rely on our experience in getting you through the process. We have successfully represented countless clients in municipal courts throughout New Jersey, including in Hackensack, New Brunswick, Morristown, Newark, Wayne, and Paramus. Here are a few of our results involved downgraded charges in New Jersey courts: