There is a new Directive that governs informing municipal court defendants of the immigration consequences of guilty pleas. According to the directive, New Jersey Municipal Court Judges are required to inform defendants in municipal court that immigration consequences may possibly attach to certain offenses and that defendants have the right to consult with immigration counsel regarding those potential consequences. The judges themselves are not supposed to give legal advice to defendants of the actual consequences but rather make defendants aware of the potential for immigration consequences. If defendants express a desire to consult with immigration counsel, judges are instructed to give defendants an opportunity to do so before accepting a guilty plea. This directive in the municipal courts is modeled closely after an earlier directive governing pleas in Superior Court criminal cases. The fact that these warnings must be given now in our municipal courts underscore how conscientious foreign nationals must be of their status when answering criminal and quasi-criminal charges in our local town courts, which is commonly and mistakenly perceived as a venue where traffic tickets and “not so important ” criminal cases are handled.
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