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Fundamentals of NJ Municipal Ordinance Violations and Penalties

November 26, 2023

Need an Attorney for a Municipal Ordinance Violation Mount Holly NJ

In all 564 of New Jersey’s municipalities, whether boroughs, townships, cities, towns, or villages, ordinances are the laws that govern what residents and visitors of the municipality can and cannot do. Municipal ordinances punish and promote acts affecting the health and safety of people within the municipality’s borders.

Categorization of Municipal Ordinance Violations in New Jersey’s Criminal Justice System

In New Jersey’s legislative framework, the municipal ordinance is a local rule that is a lesser offense than a disorderly persons offense, also a municipal court matter. The superior court handles indictable offenses or crimes. A municipal ordinance violation is not a crime but an offense like a traffic ticket or a DWI. A conviction results when a judge determines that the evidence proves that, beyond a reasonable doubt, an accused violated an ordinance. Though the consequences for crimes, offenses, and ordinance violations vary greatly, the burden of proof to convict is the same.

Leading Types of Municipal Ordinance Offenses in NJ

Some examples of ordinance violations are loitering, drunkenness in public, conducting business in a residential zone, and loud noises. The municipal rules regulate property zoning, for example, designating where industry and commerce can conduct business as opposed to residential areas. Zoning typically divides a municipality into commercial, residential, agricultural, and industrial zones. A municipal ordinance may allow local farming.

Other property regulations include designating which improvements and redevelopments apply to historic districts, residential properties, and businesses and how to get a certificate of occupancy after construction. Building codes apply to the safety of residential and commercial properties, and controls for housing and rent are regulations that cap rent prices and increases.

Local ordinances also regulate licensing within a municipality’s boundary lines. For example, where and how alcohol is available in restaurants, liquor stores, and other venues is a licensing issue for the city. Restaurants and food service handling is also an ordinance matter. Safe food handling may be state-mandated but locally enforced and permitted. The local government offices issue food and alcohol permits.

Other regulations affect the environment. For example, local government regulates industries, businesses, and residents handling and disposing of hazardous wastes. Additionally, a handful of other ordinance categories include the location and types of trees in the city, parking and traffic regulations, and ordinances relating to loitering, noise, swimming, animal control, alarm systems, public smoking, municipal employee salaries, boating, fire regulations, and utilities.

As such, you violate a municipal ordinance in most places in New Jersey by carrying an open container of an alcoholic beverage in public. Noisy late-night parties may violate a city ordinance, and public urination, sleeping on park benches, or disorderly conduct in public are all typical violations. Disorderly conduct is unique in that it can also lead to a criminal charge for the same offense.

Penalties You May Face for Violating a Municipal Ordinance in NJ

When you violate a municipal ordinance, you risk a fine of up to $2,000.00 or a maximum 90-day community service sentence. New Jersey state law, N.J.S.A. 40:49-5, allows municipalities to punish ordinance violations by a county jail term of no more than 90 days, plus the maximum fine and community service days. However, jail time is not likely, though discretionary with the municipal court judge.

Municipal Ordinance Violation Compared to a Criminal Charge

Unlike a municipal ordinance violation, a crime in New Jersey punishes more severe violations of the state law meant to govern the state’s health, welfare, and safety. Fines, jail terms, and other penalties are higher for crimes than ordinance violations. Most notably, the law presumes that second and first degree criminal convictions warrant prison terms; it’s up to the convicted defendant to rebut the presumption.

You are less likely to face a jail sentence for violating local regulations. However, repeat offenders of ordinance violations may face stiffer penalties when a judge reviews your past violations before determining a sentence. N.J.S.A. 40.49-5 permits a judge to increase fines and impose a jail sentence, especially when a convicted defendant does not pay fines for an infraction.

Deadline to Prosecute a Municipal Ordinance Violation in NJ

Officially, the local authorities have no deadline to charge you with a violation. Although a statute of limitations does not exist for prosecuting a municipal ordinance violation, a court may require the prosecution of an ordinance violation within a year of the infraction. Once convicted, you want to pay your fines and do your community service, when applicable, so the penalties do not increase.

Does a Municipal Ordinance Show up on Your Criminal Record?

A criminal conviction becomes part of your criminal record, restricting your career and housing goals. Contrarily, an ordinance violation is not a crime, so a criminal conviction does not appear on your criminal record, but the municipal ordinance violation still does. For an ordinance, you can legally answer “no” to the question of if you’ve ever been convicted of a criminal offense. For this reason, you want a disorderly persons offense reduced to a municipal ordinance violation whenever possible to avoid a criminal offense on your record.

A disorderly persons offense conviction on your record may affect your current employment significantly when the offensive behavior affects your job. Additionally, any disorderly persons offense conviction may affect future employment, depending on the offense and job. However, ordinance violations may also appear on background checks.

Removing a Municipal Ordinance from Your Background

Getting an expungement of an ordinance conviction takes two years from the date of conviction, that is, if you are otherwise eligible for an expungement. When you have more than one indictable offense conviction on your record, for instance, you may be ineligible to clear your whole criminal background with the state.

Contact a Municipal Ordinance Violation Defense Attorney in Burlington, NJ

The best outcome for an ordinance violation charge is to defeat the charge in court. By dismissing your violation, you do not have to worry about background checks when your record is otherwise clear. To fight the charge, you are smart to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who regularly handles municipal ordinances and criminal charges in local court. At Proetta, Oliver, and Fay, we appear in municipalities throughout Burlington County, NJ defending clients charged with disorderly persons and municipal ordinance offenses. With our guidance, you may be able to defeat the prosecution’s case against you.

Importantly, our lawyers can often negotiate a reduction of a disorderly person’s offense charge to a municipal ordinance violation to avoid a criminal record. We know how to speak to the prosecutor on your case and persuade them that your history, situation, and remorse warrant a reduction, especially when you have a clear criminal record to begin with. If you have been issued a charge of any kind and have been summoned to municipal court in Burlington City, Pemberton, Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Moorestown, Burlington Township, Bordentown, Lumberton, Cinnaminson, Riverside or another nearby area, call our local Marlton office at (609) 850-8284 for a free consultation about your charges.

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Burlington Office

525 Highway 73,
Suite 104, Marlton,
New Jersey 08053
Phone: 609-850-8284
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100 Horizon Center
Boulevard, Hamilton,
New Jersey, 08691
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3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
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Middletown Office

180 Kings Highway,
Middletown Township,
New Jersey 07748
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