Municipal Courts

It is amazing how many people come to Municipal Court in the misguided belief that it a place to be vindicated for the violation which they believe was wrongly issued. Whatever the claimed violation or criminal offense, whether it be putting the garbage out on the wrong day, or not stopping at a stop sign, everyone has an excuse or an explanation. Imagine their frustration when they learn that in Municipal Court it's simply "let's make a deal." No one wants to hear the excuse or the explanation. The process is not geared to a catharsis, or an opportunity to set forth your side of the case. There are simply too many cases, and too few court staff for that to occur. Rather, the defendant has to balance the desire to "have the last word," against the most successful outcome possible; and that outcome comes at the expense of being able to tell your side of the story.

Many defendants ask whether they really need a lawyer to go to Municipal Court. The answer simply is no. They don't need a lawyer, but the results are often better when a defendant is represented by a lawyer, and almost as important, the process goes a lot quicker and smoother. . .and no one tries to take advantage of a first time offender's lack of experience and understanding of the process. For example, Rules of Court provide that defendants who are represented by a lawyer have their cases heard first. The theory is that often attorneys have to appear in more than one municipal court at the same time (after all, there are over a hundred municipal courts, and only five days to schedule them all); therefore, lawyers cases have a priority, so that they can get to the other courts while they are still in session, and thus keep the court calendars moving everywhere. This is a huge benefit, because in some court, the case lists are very long, and court can last 4-5 hours. Moreover, the Municipal Prosecutor's generally offer better plea deals to defendants with counsel, because the lawyers know what pleas are possible, and when to reject the initial offer from the Prosecutor and seek further concessions.