A bench warrant could be issued for your arrest without you ever knowing about it. Most people only find out about bench warrants once it is too late, and they find themselves in jail after a simple traffic stop or another encounter with law enforcement. If you know about an active bench warrant for you, you might be able to take steps to avoid arrest and get the warrant cleared.
The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic County bench warrant lawyers represent the accused and work to get bench warrants dropped and fight related charges to keep our clients out of jail. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
What is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is different from a criminal arrest warrant or a search warrant. Those warrants are based on probable cause that you committed a crime. This means that there are articulable facts that indicate a crime was committed and you probably committed it or your property needs to be searched because identifiable evidence of the crime is probably there. A bench warrant is instead used for procedural purposes.
When you are initially arrested for a crime, a judge will either keep you in jail or release you on bail. If you are released, you will either be released on your own recognizance (ROR) or you will pay bail and be released. Either way, you face certain conditions, such as the requirement to appear at future court dates. This requirement, combined with the fact that there is already probable cause to arrest you for the initial crime you are accused of committing, authorizes a judge to issue a bench warrant for your re-arrest.
Why Do I Have a Bench Warrant for Failure to Appear in Atlantic County?
A judge typically issues a bench warrant after a failure to appear in court. Judges may use bench warrants for other purposes, but missing a court date is the most common reason to have a bench warrant. Since a judge needs you in the courtroom to proceed with criminal charges or a trial, they cannot progress the case without you. If you missed court and they do not know where you are or why you did not show up, then the easiest way to resolve that problem is to issue a warrant for your re-arrest.
These warrants are different from criminal arrest warrants or search warrants. Those are requested by a police officer or other law enforcement officer who needs permission to arrest you and charge you with a crime or to search your property for evidence of a crime. Bench warrants are also different because police will typically not show up at your house to serve the warrant. Instead, they will enter the warrant into a statewide system, and any cop in New Jersey who comes across you for another reason will be authorized to arrest you if they find out you have a warrant.
How Bench Warrant Arrests Work in Atlantic County, NJ
If a judge in Atlantic County issued a bench warrant for you, that usually means that you will be taken to court in Atlantic City. Usually, when a police officer in New Jersey finds out you have an active bench warrant – whether they are a state or local cop – they will arrest you and transfer you back to Atlantic County. If a new court date is scheduled within the next few days, you might have to spend that time in jail before the court can authorize a new bail hearing to discuss pretrial release. Otherwise, you might be released on bail while you await your new hearing date.
While criminal arrest warrants usually allow police to come to your house, bench warrants do not usually work that way. Instead, the warrant will be entered in a state-wide system, and any time police encounter people for traffic stops or other investigations, they will run their name through the system. If a police officer finds you have a warrant, they will usually arrest you and take you to jail at that point so that you can be brought to court.
When you are re-arrested, police are authorized to hold you for a few days, but the law in New Jersey is weighed in favor of sending defendants home while they await trial for most types of charges. This means if your next court date is rescheduled for more than a few days after your re-arrest, the judge might be persuaded to release you from jail again. Still, your past failures to appear in court are one element that the judge will consider when setting bail, so if you are re-arrested after failing to appear in court, a judge might deny bail to guarantee you get to your next court date.
Once you are brought to court, you will have to continue with the court case. This could potentially mean facing preliminary hearings, pretrial meetings, or even a criminal trial, depending on what stage your case was at when you failed to appear in court. It is absolutely vital to go over your case with an attorney to understand where you stand, what penalties you face, and how a lawyer can help you with the charges.
Fighting a Bench Warrant in Atlantic County
If you have a bench warrant for your arrest, getting arrested is not the only possible outcome. Sometimes a judge or police officer will not have you arrested on a bench warrant but will instead warn you that you have a warrant and give you a chance to get it taken care of. You might also be able to find out that there is a bench warrant for you if you are given notice by the court or find a bench warrant when running a background check on yourself.
First of all, it is vital to verify that the bench warrant is real if you find it on one of these methods. An attorney can help you verify if the bench warrant is real, perhaps finding out more information about when the warrant was issued and what charges it is related to. This can help you understand which court to contact and how to start clearing up the legal issues.
Many warrants will be cancelled if you call the court and schedule a new court date. Some courts might be unwilling to issue a new court date, and you may need to have your attorney call the court for you to schedule a new court date and have the warrant recalled. A judge might be willing to schedule a new court date, but still unwilling to retract the warrant, which means you should speak to your lawyer to get advice on how to proceed.
Once you appear in court for your new court date, you will need to address any charges against you and continue to appear at subsequent court dates, or else another bench warrant might be issued. Our criminal defense attorneys can help with your case in its pretrial or trial stages, fighting to get you plea deals or to have cases dropped and dismissed.
Getting a Bench Warrant Cleared in Atlantic City
Atlantic City, NJ is part of Atlantic County, which means that most criminal cases are handled at courthouses in Atlantic City. If your failure to appear was entered at this court, then a judge at that court will have issued the bench warrant against you. If you are rearrested, it is likely that you will be taken to Atlantic City to address the charges.
One of the best ways to clear up an issue with a bench warrant is to simply call the courthouse. The courthouse staff might not be able to tell you specifics about the case against you, but they may be able to schedule a new court date so that you can go in and address the charges. In some cases, judges may be uncooperative and refuse to lift a bench warrant, and you should always work with a lawyer to help clear up bench warrants.
If you can get the warrant lifted and get a new court date scheduled, you may be able to avoid other penalties as well. The bench warrant can be cleared from the system, and you might be able to avoid arrest. Plus, if your bench warrant came with a driver’s license suspension or other holds on your legal rights, those might be cleared as well. However, when you do arrive at your next court date, you might be expected to immediately continue dealing with the case against you, so it is important to work with a lawyer who can help you prepare for your case and help you avoid additional demands from the prosecution to have bail revoked.
Call Our Atlantic County Bench Warrant Attorneys for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one has a bench warrant in Atlantic County, NJ or was already arrested on a bench warrant, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our Atlantic County bench warrant lawyers might be able to help you get bench warrants canceled and fight the charges against you. To schedule a free legal consultation with our lawyers, call us today at (609) 616-4956.