Our country and the entire world is facing a time of profound uncertainty as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads at an alarming rate. Governors across America, including Governor Murphy here in New Jersey, have issued orders mandating that everyone stay at home except for essential workers and ordinary citizens performing essential activities, liking seeing a doctor or buying groceries. With announcements that the court system will be running at a limited capacity, many are wondering whether warrants are being enforced and arrests made during this unique time. Below, our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain what is happening with the criminal justice system while the pandemic is going on and what you should do if you find out you have a warrant out against you.
Are the Criminal Courts in New Jersey Closed During Covid-19?
In mid-March, as the scale and severity of the pandemic was coming into scope, the state Supreme Court ordered that, in line with government mandated social distancing requirements, the courts in the state would close for most in-person proceedings. This order means that any pending New Jersey municipal court date or New Jersey superior court date you had scheduled for your criminal case during the next month is likely to be postponed. The courts are open only for emergent matters that might impact public safety and detention hearings for incarcerated individuals, and even those are mostly being conducted remotely.
You are supposed to receive some sort of notice from the court where your matter was scheduled that your proceeding has been postponed. If you have a pending matter and have yet to receive such a notice, you should contact your criminal defense lawyer so that they can reach out to the court clerk and prosecutor’s office to find out about the status of your case. If you do not have a criminal defense lawyer representing you, now is certainly the time to get one. A lawyer will be able to conduct some of the proceedings, such as pre-trial matters like hearings on motions, remotely, and can even continue negotiating with the prosecutor about a potential plea deal for your case.
Bench Warrants in New Jersey During Covid-19
With the courts largely closed, new bench warrants should not be issued at this time for court dates that have been postponed. However, it is important that your lawyer confirm with the court that the matter is being rescheduled and that there is nothing further that you are required to do during this time. If you already have a bench warrant out for your arrest, you may wonder whether such warrants are being actively enforced during the pandemic. While bench warrants may not be a priority right now, this does not mean that you do not risk your arrest and potential incarceration if you fail to act to get a bench warrant lifted during this time.
Police know that you are at home most of the time, so there is a chance they could come to your home to enforce a bench warrant like they often do with arrest warrants. Even if this does not occur, you run the risk of being arrested any time you have interaction with officers. If you are pulled over for a check to make sure you are an essential worker, and the officer notices you have a warrant out for your arrest, they could arrest you on the spot.
Because the courts are running remotely, if at all, you could end up spending far more time behind bars than usual waiting to get before a judge to resolve your bench warrant. With jails reporting large numbers of Covid-19 infections, nobody wants to spend any time in a detention facility at the moment. The best thing you can do if you know a bench warrant has been issued against you is to contact a skilled Atlantic City bench warrant defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. We can reach out to the local police and court officers to try to determine a way to get your warrant lifted in exchange for you appearing remotely before a judge or agreeing to appear after the pandemic has subsided.
Arrest Warrants in New Jersey During Covid-19
Although the courts are operating at diminished capacity during Covid-19, the police are still working night and day to enforce the laws. If an investigation was being conducted into potential crimes you committed before the pandemic began, it will continue. The police will be able to remotely apply for an arrest warrant and come to your home to make an arrest. If you commit a new crime during this public health emergency, the police will pursue the matter and arrest you. Police are out and about patrolling the streets more than ever to keep the public safe during this crisis.
If you are arrested, you or a loved one needs to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Bail hearings are mostly being conducted via videoconference and are not occurring promptly during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. You could end up spending days or weeks in jail just waiting for a judge to make a determination about whether you can be released while the case is resolved. A lawyer can attempt to negotiate your release from the police station on your own recognizance. If a bail hearing must occur, our bail hearing attorneys will work to get it scheduled as soon as possible and fight to make sure the judge releases you.
If You are Worried About a Warrant During Covid-19, Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Now more than ever is not a time that you want to have to deal with trouble from law enforcement. With so many other stressors in our lives due to Covid-19, the last thing you want to be worried about is being sent to a dirty, overcrowded detention center for an indefinite time until your matter can be heard. This is why it is absolutely vital to contact an experienced South Jersey criminal defense lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych as soon as you learn of a bench or arrest warrant being issued in your name. We will work to resolve the matter remotely or to get you out of police custody as quickly as possible. For a free consultation, call us at (609) 616-4956.