FAQs by State

New Hampshire

  • How are the courts structured in New Hampshire?

New Jersey

  • What’s the difference between Superior Court and Municipal Court in New Jersey?
  • What is the New Jersey Promis/Gavel System?
  • What is PTI?
  • How do I obtain DUI cases in New Jersey?
  • What happens to a case once it has been transferred to Family Court?

Pennsylvania

  • What is the ARD Program?
  • Should the record of an applicant claiming to have completed the ARD Program been expunged?
  • What are Magistrate and Municipal courts?

New Hampshire

Q: How are the courts structured in New Hampshire?

A: The New Hampshire Judicial Branch includes the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, and the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court has three divisions: the District Division, the Probate Division and the Family Division. Cases are handled as follows:

The Supreme Court handles civil, criminal and juvenile appeals and matters involving administrative agencies. It also handles some original petitions, such as a writ of habeus corpus filed by an inmate seeking release from prison.

The Superior Court has jurisdiction over a wide variety of cases, including criminal, and civil cases, and provides the only forum in this state for trial by jury.

The Circuit Court Probate Division has jurisdiction over trusts, wills and estates, adoptions, termination of parental rights, guardianships, equity matters, name changes and involuntary commitments.

The Circuit Court District Division have jurisdiction over misdemeanor and violation level criminal offenses, small claims, landlord/tenant matters, stalking cases and civil cases which do not exceed $25,000. In addition, a party may go to a District Division to obtain an emergency order of protection in a domestic violence matter. Some District Divisions also handle juvenile matters and hearings in domestic violence matters; however in counties where the Family Division has been instituted that court would not address those issues. Lastly the District Divisions handle appeals of gun permit denials, land use violations and replevin. In some matters the jurisdiction of the District Division is concurrent with the Superior Court, meaning that a party could go to either.

The Circuit Court Family Division jurisdiction includes divorce, parenting disputes, child support, domestic violence, guardianship, termination of parental rights, abuse and neglect cases, children in need of supervision, delinquencies, and some adoptions.

New Jersey

Q: What’s the difference between Superior Court and Municipal Court in New Jersey?

A: Superior Court hear cases involving criminal, civil and family law. A majority of criminal cases heard at the Superior Court contain “indictable” offenses. Criminal case information can be obtained at each of the 21 Superior Courts in New Jersey by using the public access terminals containing the statewide criminal database called the Promis / Gavel.

Municipal Court hear a great variety of cases. Municipal Court is where cases involving motor-vehicles offenses, such as illegal parking, speeding and driving while intoxicated, are heard.

Municipal Courts also hear cases involving minor criminal offenses such as simple assault, trespassing and shoplifting, some of which can be transferred in from the Superior Court. In New Jersey, these minor crimes are known as “disorderly persons” offenses. Cases involving hunting, fishing and boating laws and even minor disputes between neighbors are also heard in Municipal Courts.

Municipal Courts are operated by the city, township or borough in which the courts are located. There are 539 Municipal Courts in the state.

There is no municipal court database system. In order to obtain any criminal case information, direct contact with a specific court is required. This can be done by phone, fax, email, or regular mail, depending on the policies of each individual court.

Q: What is the New Jersey Promis/Gavel System?

A: The Promis/Gavel system is an automated criminal case tracking system available at all Superior Courts in New Jersey. It contains information concerning defendants who have been charged with indictable offenses and tracks the processing of those defendants from initial arrest through appellate review. This system provides the function of docketing, indexing, noticing, calendaring, statistical reporting, case management reporting, and so forth. At the present time, 100% of the statewide criminal caseload is handled by Promis/Gavel.

Q: What is PTI?

A: PTI stands for Pre-Trial Intervention Program. It provides defendants, generally first-time offenders, with opportunities for alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process of ordinary prosecution. PTI seeks to render early rehabilitative services, when such services can reasonably be expected to deter future criminal behavior. The PTI program is based on a rehabilitative model that recognizes that there may be an apparent causal connection between the offense charged and the rehabilitative needs of a defendant. Further, the rehabilitative model emphasizes that social, cultural, and economic conditions often result in a defendant’s decision to commit crime.

Simply stated, PTI strives to solve personal problems which tend to result from the conditions that appear to cause crime, and ultimately, to deter future criminal or disorderly behavior by a defendant.

If a defendant does not successfully complete the PTI program, then the defendant is terminated from the PTI program and the case is returned to the trial list.

If a defendant successfully completes all the conditions of PTI, then the original charges are dismissed and there is no record of conviction however, the case is NOT automatically expunged. The case information is still obtainable on the in-court Promis/Gavel system. The defendant is still required to file for expungement for they so desire.

Q: How do I obtain DUI cases in New Jersey?

A: In the state of New Jersey, DUI cases are held at the municipal court level and are considered traffic offenses. In order to obtain DUI information, direct contact with the municipal court which held the original case would need to be made. DUI cases are still considered public information.

Q: What happens to a case once it has been transferred to Family Court?

A: If a criminal case being held at Superior Court is transferred to family court, it is no longer considered public information. The plaintiff, defendant, and their respective attorneys are the only people allowed to view or obtain any information in regards to the case.

Pennsylvania

Q: What is the ARD Program?

A: ARD is a second chance program for first offenders of non-violent crimes. If you are admitted into the program, the charge is held in abeyance. (deferred adjudication) ARD is short for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. By admitting first time PA  offenders into the ARD program the state of Pennsylvania is able to avoid lengthy court proceedings and the defendant is able to have their case expunged from their criminal record once they complete the ARD program.

Q: A record was returned for an applicant who claims to have completed the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program. Shouldn’t their record have been expunged?

A: Not necessarily. Once a defendant completes the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program they may petition to have their record expunged, but this does not happen automatically. This is a common misconception about the program. The record will remain public information until the petition is accepted and processed, which could take 30 days to 6 months depending on the county.

Q: What are Magistrate and Municipal courts?

A: Magistrate and Municipal courts are what are known as “Minor Courts” in Pennsylvania. This is where preliminary arraignments and hearings will take place, as well as the determination as to whether or not the case will be moved up to Common Pleas. Summary, traffic, and low-grade misdemeanor charges can be disposed at this level, but appeals are sent to Common Pleas.

Do you have a question? Contact County House Research.