New Jersey's Municipal Courts Go Virtual Due to COVID-19

Posted by: Wiley Lavender on Monday, August 10, 2020

The impact of the COVID-19 upon New Jersey has been far-reaching. As such, almost every aspect of the New Jersey Court system is adapting to its effects. Earlier this year, there was a two-week suspension period for Municipal Court appearances. Since, the operations of Municipal Courts resumed but with a big difference. Persons charged with certain kinds of violations now make their court appearances remotely over the internet as opposed to actually coming to the courthouse. In other words, New Jersey's Municipal Courts go virtual.

On April 27, 2020 the Administrative Office of the Courts issued Directive #12-20. This directive set guiding principles for when and how remote court events will be conducted.

The Directive further stated the approved technologies for remote court appearances. Those technologies were Zoom, Scopia, Microsoft Teams, and phone. The Judiciary encourages and supports Zoom or Teams. Zoom enables parties, witnesses, and attorneys with access to the internet to participate in video court proceedings.

Currently, the Administrative Office of the Courts orders that Municipal Court sessions to be conducted primarily using remote technologies. Although, in limited circumstances, in-person sessions still take place for complex matters such as DWI trials.

Virtually the Same

These “Virtual” court appearances are just as legitimate as in-person court appearances. They will be conducted as if everyone is appearing before the Judge in person.  If you are the Defendant, you have the same rights you would normally have in Municipal Court. This includes the right to a lawyer.

With Zoom, both the video and audio of your appearance before the judge can be recorded.  You will be able to speak to your attorney in a breakout room. If you enter a plea before the judge, you will be sentenced through Zoom. However, you will be mailed a written order to pay any fines and costs.

Particularly important - if you fail to attend your “virtual” court appearance, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.

With these new developments it is important that any person facing charges in Municipal Court have skilled legal Counsel.  The attorneys at Wiley Lavender, P.C. can provide the services that you will need as New Jersey's Municipal Courts go virtual.