Right now is an incredibly frightening and unsettling time in New Jersey and across the nation. We are dealing with an unprecedented public health crisis in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic and people are being advised to stay home and only venture out into the public for essential supplies such as food and medicine. Many people are wondering whether the police are still actively pursuing cases and if the courts are issuing bench warrants during this time. Below, our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych help guide you through the uncertainty prevalent during this pandemic regarding the status of warrants and criminal cases in New Jersey.
Bench Warrants During Covid-19 in New Jersey
On March 17th, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the shutdown of all state courts, with few limited exceptions. No new jury trials are currently being conducted. The municipal courts and superior courts where criminal cases are handled are closed except for emergent matters. Although some matters such as motion hearings and pre-trial conferences are being conducted remotely, via phone or internet, virtually all in-person hearings have stopped.
Typically, if you do not appear for a required court appearance, a judge will issue a bench warrant. This warrant will allow for your arrest if you come into contact with law enforcement while it is active. It is highly unlikely that any new bench warrants will be issued while the Supreme Court’s order regarding the closure of the court system is in effect. You should receive notice of a rescheduling of any court dates. If you do not, contact the office of the court in which you were scheduled to appear and ask whether a new date has been issued or if that matter has simply been postponed indefinitely. You can also contact your lawyer to help you get the proper information.
Those who already have bench warrants out for them face a distinct issue. While it is unlikely that the police will arrest you for a bench warrant during this time, the possibility has not been foreclosed. The best thing you can do if you know a bench warrant has been issued in your name prior to the suspension of court activities is to contact an experienced Atlantic City bench warrant defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. The lawyer can contact the local police and prosecutor’s offices and attempt to work out a deal for your warrant to be lifted in exchange for you appearing in court once the public health crisis has abated. If you do not do this, you run the risk of an officer pulling you over and taking you into custody for an outstanding bench warrant.
Arrest Warrants During Covid-19 in New Jersey
Although the courts have been largely shut down, this does not mean that you can commit crime with impunity during the Covid-19 crisis. Arrests are still occurring and you could run the risk of spending even more time in jail than usual. Investigations are still underway and officers are able to have arrest warrants remotely approved by judges. While it is true that lower-level crimes are not a current priority, this does not mean that the particular officer handling your case will not decide to arrest you for a low-level crime.
If an arrest warrant is issued, the police are likely to come to your home or place of work to enforce it. These warrants are enforced much more strongly than bench warrants. It is likely this will continue during the current pandemic because failing to arrest those accused of a crime could lead to serious public safety issues. Officers can also arrest you on the spot without a warrant if they personally see you commit the crime or have reasonable suspicion you committed it based on first-hand reports.
Once you have been arrested, you will be taken to the local jail for the booking process. This will involve your picture and fingerprints being taken and any items on your person being inventoried until you are released. You will be placed into a holding cell where you will remain until you are able to get before a judge for a detention hearing, where the judge decides whether or not you can be released while the underlying issue is resolved.
Because of the current crisis and the fact that these hearings are typically now being conducted remotely through a videoconferencing system, you are likely to spend more time in jail right now than the 24-72 hours it usually takes for a hearing to be held. This should be a major concern for you considering that Covid-19 has been spreading easily in the close quarters of jails. You need to contact an experienced bail hearing defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away. We can work to try to get the police to release you with a citation or get your case heard by a judge as soon as possible. In serious cases, our lawyers can also work to convince the judge that you will not be a threat to public safety if released.
If You Have Been Arrested or Are Concerned About a Warrant, Call Our New Jersey Defense Lawyers Today
Now is a scarier time than ever to face the prospect of spending a prolonged period of time behind bars. If you have a bench warrant out for your arrest, it is best to contact an experienced South Jersey criminal defense lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych so that we can work to ensure you will not be arrested during the pandemic. If you have been arrested, our lawyers can work to get you out of police custody and back to the safety of your home as quickly as possible. We can also advise you on potential delays to the criminal justice process during Covid-19 and what this could mean to your case. Call us today at (609) 616-4956 for a free, confidential consultation.