New Jersey Municipal Offense Lawyers

In New Jersey, municipal courts have jurisdiction over disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses that have taken place within their jurisdiction. More serious criminal matters such as robbery, auto theft, and aggravated assault are often initially filed in the Municipal Court but are later transferred to the Superior Court located at the county courthouse. Even though municipal courts only hear relatively minor criminal matters, pleading guilty can still result in consequences that could have been avoided by hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer, including jail time and a permanent criminal record.

The experienced municipal offense lawyers at Shebell & Shebell fight vigorously for every one of our clients because we understand the damaging consequences of a criminal conviction. We are often able to achieve a partial victory for our clients by keeping more serious indictable offenses in municipal court by getting the charges downgraded. We have successfully represented clients in municipal courts throughout New Jersey, including Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties.


The Municipal Court Process

The municipal court system in New Jersey is governed by its own set of legal procedures.   Municipal court cases proceed much more quickly than cases heard in Superior Court. A defendant can be arrested, appear in court, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty all on the same day. The prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain, and it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer before accepting. Even if it seems like a good offer, there may be unforeseen consequences, and an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to get your charges dismissed entirely. For any municipal court matter, you have the right to a hearing and the right to be represented by an attorney.

In certain situations, our lawyers may be able to keep an indictable offense (felony) in municipal court by having the charge downgraded to a disorderly persons offense. This decision comes with advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, a municipal court judge is the finder of fact and determines whether you are guilty or not (as opposed to a jury, which fulfills these roles in Superior Court).   On the other hand, the maximum sentence in municipal court is limited to six months in county jail, plus fines, surcharges, restitution and other sanctions. If the case is heard in Superior Court you could face much more serious penalties including greater fines and prison time.


What Types of Crimes Are Adjudicated in Municipal Court?

Common examples of disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses include:

  • Simple assault
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Resisting arrest
  • Possession of small amounts of marijuana
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Shoplifting (under $200)
  • Writing bad checks (fraud)
  • Harassment
  • Lewdness
  • Certain juvenile offenses, such as possession of a fake I.D. or underage possession of alcohol
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Excessive noise
  • Littering
  • Loitering
  • Public intoxication
  • Motor vehicle offenses and parking tickets
  • Fish and game violations



Penalties for violations of municipal ordinances can include up to 90 days in county jail, fines of up to $2,000, and up to 90 days of community service (N.J.S.A. 40:49-5). Although there is a presumption of non-incarceration for first time offenders, being sentenced to jail is a very real possibility if you have any prior convictions. Multiple convictions for certain criminal offenses such as shoplifting can result in mandatory jail time.

If you are convicted of a motor vehicle offense, you may get points on your driving record and/or insurance points, resulting in higher premiums that you will have to pay for years. For certain offenses, you could potentially lose your driver’s license.

Arrests and convictions for disorderly persons offenses will appear on your criminal record. This can result in the loss of your job, and prevent you from obtaining gainful employment in the future. Convictions for municipal ordinance violations generally do not appear on one’s criminal record. Our lawyers may be able to get your charges downgraded to a municipal ordinance violation so that your good name remains clear.

The Effective Municipal Offense Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Have Helped Countless Clients Throughout New Jersey

Our contacts throughout the municipal court system and skill in negotiating favorable outcomes can help put your case on track for dismissal or eventual expungement through placement in a conditional discharge program. We have helped countless clients get indictable offenses (felonies) downgraded to disorderly persons offenses, and disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) downgraded to municipal ordinance violations (which do not get placed on your criminal record). We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County, including Howell, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Wall, Union Beach and Neptune. For a free consultation, call us at 866-957-5237 or contact us online today.

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Thomas Shebell was an A M A Z I N G attorney for our personal injury case. He made himself available to all our questions and concerns during the whole process. We were very nervous about it all and he set our fears to rest. You instantly believe in him after your first meeting. He was serious yet empathetic, had superb legal knowledge, and great judgement. His staff is also top notch. Words cannot describe how wonderful a lawyer we believe Thomas Shebell to be and would highly recommend him.
Posted by Michele on December 8

My hero, my attorney who is always there for me!

Tom Shebell has represented me and my family members in several cases. Tom is the most prepared lawyer I have ever seen, and demands respect in and outside of the court room. His staff is amazing and never makes you feel as if you are bothering them. I always feel that I am his most important client, and he always takes my call. If he is busy, I am reassured that he will get right back to me and he does. His knowledge of the law and research on your case is impecable, and will never give up until he gets the results that he feels are the best for you. Although he is the most professional attorney I have ever worked with, he refers you call him Tom (not Mr. Shebell), and I am most comfortable calling him Tommy. His cell phone is on his answering service, to comfort you and assuring you that you can reach him if necessary, no matter what. I will never retain another lawyer, unless it is a case that he cannot handle. That has never happened to me. Unfortunately, Tommy is handling a very emotional case for my family, and whenever we discuss it our meet together he is very comforting to us. For a family man, and extremely busy attorney to handle matters like this, it truly takes a special type of person, and extraordiinary human being. If anyone take my advise, Tom Shebell, III is the only attorney that should be called first, and believe me you will not make another call. As I said in my title, he is my true "hero"!
Posted by Sandi on September 17

I am Grateful I was able to have Thomas Shebell for my Lawyer

Thomas Shebell and his staff were very good to work with. They were always professional, but also very down to earth and real. I always felt that my best interest was their main concern. I was always able to call with questions and concerns and was never made to wait or to feel like I was inconveniencing anyone. I always felt that they knew instantly who I was and what was going on with my case. In the end, Thomas was able to get the best possible settlement for me. I am very grateful to have been treated like my case truly mattered to them.
Posted by Toni on March 28

Ferocious Fighter

Tom Shebell and his firm came highly recommended by several reputable people in the community. I come from a family deeply rooted in law enforcement, so I greatly appreciate that Tom grew up with the law as well, hailing from a family of highly respected attorneys. He easily grasped the complexity of my case and eased my concerns, while ferociously fighting for me. One of the moments that stands out to me the most was when I voiced a concern over possible retaliation and he said, "they're going to have come through me first." I wholeheartedly believed him then and now. There is no one else I'd want in my corner than Tom Shebell.
Posted by on February 23

A League Of His Own

Mere words cannot express my gratitude to Thomas F Shebell III. He took on a case, that other attorneys would shy away from and fought vehemently for my husband, myself and our daughter. His tenacity is only surpassed by his kindness and compassion for his clients well-being. I would recommend Mr. Shebell III to anyone who may need an attorney to guide them through a difficult time and see them through to a successful end. Many thanks again to him and his staff!!