The New Municipal Court Rules Focus on Discovery
This year the New Jersey Supreme Court issued changes to the court rules. The rule changes, for the most part, clarify discovery standards including electronic mediums or “e-discovery”. The new court rules cover criminal law and municipal court law and will take effect January 1, 2013. You can review the entirety of the Supreme Court Order and text of the rule changes by clicking here.
The rule changes are significant for defendants who were charged with offenses in New Jersey’s Municipal Court system. The rule changes fix the cost the state may charge for producing paper discovery. The cost is limited to five cents per page of standard paper and seven cents per page for legal size paper. Additionally, the state is prohibited from charging for discovery that is available via the internet or produced via e-mail. The state is also limited to charging the actual cost for digital mediums such as CD-ROMs.
In most cases defendants will get some financial relief in requesting discovery but it will not be all that significant. Currently, a typical discovery package in Municipal Court costs less than $40. Under the new rules, the typical discovery package will probably cost less than $10. This is not to downplay the cost savings for discovery, however, I do not believe the rule changes that relate to the cost of discovery are the most significant to those who are facing charges in Municipal Court.
The new rules expanded definition of discovery. In several portions of the new rules the term of documents or other tangible objects has been broadened to include, “writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, video and sound recordings, images, electronically stored information, and other data were dated compilations stored in any medium for which information can be obtained and translated, if necessary, into reasonably usable form”. In theory, the state should have an obligation to provide the digital download data from the Alcotest when it provides its initial discovery in a DWI case. In fact, some municipalities have already started providing digital download date as part of their standard discovery practice.
The continuing obligation to provide discovery is also a significant change to the rules. Rule 7:7-7 (j) now formally and explicitly states, “There shall be a continuing duty to provide discovery pursuant to this rule.” This is particularly important because the state’s discovery is usually provided to defendants within 10 days of the entry of the defense attorneys appearance. If the state obtains materials that would be discoverable after the initial discovery package has been provided to the defendant state now has a clear obligation to provide them to the defense in advance of the trial.
For a free confidential consultation to discuss your Municipal Court or Superior Court charges contact the Criminal Defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele, P.C. (856) 546-1350. We aggressively defend our clients in order to protect them for the serious consequences of criminal and traffic convictions. In many cases we can offer flat fees and payment plans.