New Jersey’s History of Supporting Municipalities
Municipal ordinances have been around for decades in the state of New Jersey. These ordinances began when the state started to recognize regional concerns regarding service, planning, and development due to a surge in population and increased urbanization. Individual counties took on many local duties and responsibilities that municipalities previously resolved. The State allowed each county to reorganize its government to address the needs of diverse communities.
Five hundred sixty-six municipalities exist in New Jersey. There are five types of municipality in the state:
- 250 boroughs
- 52 cities
- 15 towns
- 246 townships
- 3 villages
Under the New Jersey Constitution, each of these municipalities may create and enforce local rules and regulations, called ordinances. Often, corporations and individuals in New Jersey are accused of violating ordinances in a particular municipality.
Matters Municipalities Govern
New Jersey courts emphasize that state and county governments should delegate broad powers to municipalities to develop ordinances for public health and safety and overall well being. Municipal ordinances govern many areas that directly affect their residents, including:
Zoning and planning
Parking and traffic
Right to farm ordinances
Restaurants and food handling
Housing and rent control regulations
Certificates of occupancy
Are Municipal Violations Criminal Offenses?
No. A violation of a municipal ordinance is not considered a crime and should not appear on a criminal record, nor should a criminal background check reveal an instance of a municipal ordinance violation; however, you or your company could face steep fines and other penalties if you are believed to have violated an ordinance.
Municipal violations may include charges of disturbing the peace, excessive noise, littering, loitering, or public intoxication on an individual level. Corporations may also be accused of violating environmental ordinances, littering, zoning regulations, destroying public resources, and any action that interferes with the orderly management of the municipality.
Businesses Facing Local Violations
It is not unheard of for a municipality to issue a summons and complaint to a business entity or one of its officers in an effort to address environmental, health and safety, nuisance and code violation issues affecting real property in the municipality. Often, a municipality will issue a summons and complaint to the CEO or other high ranking officer. If there is a failure to appear, the municipality will issue a warrant for the CEO or other high ranking officer’s arrest. This practice is occurring on a more frequent basis against mortgagees and/or mortgage loan servicers. Sandelands Eyet has extensive experience in representing mortgagees, loan servicers and their officers when they are sued in municipal court.
Individuals Facing Local Violations
Municipal matters include motor vehicle charges, local health or municipal code violations, and lesser criminal matters. Each municipality or a collective of municipalities will have a local court system to process claims and, when necessary, try cases. A judge, retained by the municipality, will preside over the court. A prosecutor, also retained by the municipality, will represent the State in each matter.
Individuals often represent themselves in matters pending in municipal court. However, the penalties if convicted can be significant, both in terms of cost and impact on your freedom, job, driver’s license and insurance premiums. Further, for some violations, a mandatory prison sentence may be imposed. If you have been accused of a municipal violation, contact our office to speak with an attorney that understands your situation, can advise you on what to expect with the charges that you are facing, and can protect your interests as effectively as possible. You can trust our work; our Partners have been selected for the 2019 Super Lawyers Rising Stars List.