Municipal Court Defense

Traffic Tickets, DWI Offenses, Shoplifting, Drug Possession and Paraphernalia, Harassment, Plea Bargins, Conditional Dismissal, Trial

Schenck Price handles all traffic tickets and offenses in Municipal Courts.

Traffic Tickets

There can be serious consequences for traffic tickets. Points are assessed on certain violations which can accrue to where there is intervention by the Division of Motor Vehicles. An example is the points on speeding tickets:

Speeding up to 14 mph above limit – 2 points
Speeding up to 15-29 mph above limit – 4 points
Speeding up to 30 mph or more above limit 5 points

When you use the services of Tanya Helfand at Schenck Price, she will obtain your certified driver abstract which shows your driving record. This is the basis for later negotiation with the Prosecutor. We then obtain the discovery from the Police which can consist of videos, radar or laser readings for speeding tickets. When radar is used to clock speed the police must provide proofs of calibrations of the devices as well as log entries proving that the tests were done. The State has the burden of proving its case. If it cannot meet its burden, you have a right to a trial and dismissal. Contested issues which may not be totally in the Defendant’s favor may lead to downgraded charges and plea bargains.

The standard of proof at trial is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In many municipal court offenses, plea bargaining is available. It is an alternative to going to trial and if the discovery shows that you are unlikely to win at trial, it makes sense to plea bargain.

Plea bargaining must be handled in a knowledgeable way. We inform the client all of the available alternatives which best meet our client’s needs for the lowest possible penalties.


A Driving While Intoxicated or Refusal to submit to chemical tests are very serious matters. A minimum of a seven month loss of license will be imposed for a conviction of DWI when the Alcotest reading is above .10 for a first offense or for refusal. There are fines and fees as well as requirements to go to the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center. The driver’s license will not be restored until all requirements are met and then there is a $100.00 restoration fee to be paid to Motor Vehicles. The license suspensions and fines are significantly higher for second offenses. There is no provision in New Jersey for a license to drive to work and back. If convicted, you simply cannot drive while your license is suspended. In addition, the Division of Motor Vehicles imposes surcharges of $1,000.00 per year for three years.

A person charged with DWI has a right to a trial and full discovery including whether there was probable cause for the stop; an analysis of the elements of the police reasoning for suspecting intoxication; proper administration of field tests; proper proceedings for the Alcotest; all discovery related to calibrations of the Alcotest; review of police videos of the incident; appropriate disposition.

A full legal evaluation is needed to defend a DWI charge or refusal charge. In some cases, an expert is required. For example, if a Defendant has an ailment or has a condition that impairs his or her ability to perform a breath test, a doctor will be needed to prove it.

If the intoxication is not due to alcohol, but due to drugs, the police will request a urine test. If there has been an accident with injuries or other circumstances requiring hospital treatment, a blood test can be done at the hospital. A person has the right to have chemical tests of his breath, urine or blood made by a person or physician of his own selection. If the charge is driving while intoxicated while under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, a urine test will be taken to determine the presence of the drug. The sample will be sent to the lab for analysis. If a suspected drug is found in the car or in the possession of the driver, it, too, will be tested as proof that it, in fact, is a drug.

Operating with drugs in one’s possession in a motor vehicle, if found guilty, imposes forfeiture of his driver’s license for two years from the date of his conviction. A person can be charged with DWI as well as possession of drugs, and possession of drugs in a motor vehicle. These are three separate charges.

The possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia charge is not a motor vehicle offense; although it can arise out of a DWI incident. If it is a first offense, there may be potential for entry into a conditional discharge program. If one qualifies for this, and all the proofs show that you may be found guilty of all charges, it can be prudent to enter into a plea bargain to limit the loss of driving privileges as much as possible.

The Defendant will be advised of all reasonable alternatives.

Driving While Suspended for DWI

It is a crime if you drive while suspended for DWI or refusal and there is mandatory jail.

It is now a crime of the fourth degree to operate a motor vehicle while one’s license has been suspended for a DWI or refusal to submit to chemical tests.

While the driver’s license is suspended for a first DWI or refusal offense, if you are convicted of driving while suspended, the Court will sentence the offender for a term of imprisonment.

If there is a second or subsequent drunk driving conviction or refusal conviction and the Defendant operates a motor vehicle during the period of license suspension, the Court shall order a term of imprisonment of 180 days in jail without parole.

The 180 days must be served in jail. Alternatives to jail such as home arrest or community service do not protect the public from the dangers of a Defendant who loses his or her driving privileges for DWI, but continues to drive.


Shoplifting consists of any one or more of the following acts:

  1. For any person purposely to take possession of, carry away, transfer or cause to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the full retail value thereof.
  2. For any person purposely to conceal upon his person or otherwise any merchandise offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the processes, use or benefit of such merchandise or converting the same to the use of such person without paying to the merchant the value thereof.
  3. For any person purposely to alter, transfer or remove any label, price tag or marking indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment and to attempt to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or some part of the value thereof.
  4. For any person purposely to transfer any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail merchandise establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the retail value thereof.
  5. For any person purposely to under-ring with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value thereof.
  6. For any person purposely to remove a shopping cart from the premises of a store or other retail mercantile establishment without the consent of the merchant given at the time of such removal with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.

Further, any person who conceals unpurchased merchandise of any store on the premises or outside the premises shall be presumed to have concealed such merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof. Finding such merchandise concealed on the person or among the belongings of such person or of another is evidence of willful concealment. For example, placing merchandise in one’s pocket or concealed in a baby carriage is evidence of willful concealment.

Depending upon the value of the merchandise, shoplifting can be a crime or an offense. Many shoplifting cases are disorderly person’s offenses because the value of the merchandise is under $200.00. These are addressed in the municipal courts.

In locations with shopping malls and large department stores, the municipal courts will frequently have shoplifting offenses to handle and they will want to send a message that it is serious and strong penalties will occur. The large stores have video surveillance and security personnel who will appear in Court as witnesses.

A disorderly person’s offense can carry fines of up to $1000.00 and six months in jail.

Counsel will obtain discovery, review the video tapes, where available, and appear in Court. The Defendant will also receive a civil recovery letter. It is not part of the criminal case. Payment of the civil recovery will not require the merchant to drop the criminal case.


If the Defendant has had no prior criminal record, including no prior diversionary program dismissing a charge, it may be possible to apply for the Conditional Dismissal Program. The Prosecutor must be notified in advance. There is a $75.00 fee for admission to this program. There will be assessments determined by the Court as well as certain fees and costs. The Defendant must agree to be fingerprinted and for the Court to obtain a criminal case history. The Defendant will have to plead guilty to the charge, but no judgment of conviction will be entered.

If the Court permits entry into the program, the Defendant must have no charges within the next year for the dismissal to occur.

Six months after the date of dismissal, the Defendant can apply for expungement of the record.

For more information on this program, please click here.