If there is a warrant for your arrest, you are constantly at risk of being arrested and sent to jail.  An outstanding warrant can make it difficult to interact with the government in other ways, such as by reporting that you were the victim of a crime or even getting your driver’s license renewed.  If you go to the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), New Jersey’s equivalent of the DMV, you could be putting yourself at risk to get arrested.  The Atlantic City bench warrant lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain what can happen if you have a bench warrant and try to go to the MVC in New Jersey.

Can I Get Arrested on a Bench Warrant in NJ?

Search warrants and arrest warrants can be issued in different ways for different purposes.  People often just say that there is “a warrant” out for them, but this kind of language doesn’t specify what kind of warrant it is.  Typically, arrest warrants are one of two types:

  1. Criminal arrest warrants, which are issued as part of a criminal investigation to bring someone in for questioning or to charge them with a crime, or
  2. Bench warrants, which are issued by a judge for failing to appear in court.

Unless police are keeping you informed of their investigations and letting you know when they are close to arresting you, you usually will not know that there is a criminal arrest warrant for you.  These warrants can be executed at almost any time, and they usually give police permission to go to your house and arrest you there, though they usually need to knock and might not serve a warrant at night.

Bench warrants are very different.  First, a bench warrant is issued by a judge because you didn’t show up to a court date, not because you are being investigated for another crime.  When you don’t show up to court, the judge cannot proceed with the case, so they issue a bench warrant to get you in the door so they can move the case along.  Typically, a bench warrant is issued after you’ve already been arrested, booked, charged, and released with notice of your next court date.  While this kind of warrant should not be a surprise, a court date might slip your mind or anxiety about the case might stop you from showing up and lead to a bench warrant.

Second, bench warrants don’t typically authorize a police officer to go after you to make the arrest.  Bench warrants usually work by being entered into a system so that police can run a warrant check with your name or license plate number.  If a police officer pulls you over or encounters you during another investigation, they might arrest you on the bench warrant and take you back to the court that needs to see you.  This means they typically will not go to your house.

Bench warrants for disorderly persons offenses (New Jersey’s version of a misdemeanor) and serious or repeat traffic tickets are often handled this way, but if you are on the run after facing felony charges, police might take additional steps to get you back in custody.

Can You Get Arrested at the DMV in New Jersey?

New Jersey’s MVC is their version of the Department of Motor Vehicles.  The MVC is responsible for licensing and vehicle registration, among other things.  This means that if you need to renew your driver’s license, renew your registration, make changes to your ID, or take other actions, you may need to go to the MVC.  The MVC does not have any special safeguards in place to protect people from police, and there is generally nothing to stop a police officer from arresting you there – but the chance of you being arrested at the DMV will depend on many factors.

First of all, MVC workers are not police officers or law enforcement officials.  This means that the person behind the desk at the DMV is not able to arrest you, and generally has little to no authority to even check your record.  MVC workers might see whether you have a suspended driver’s license, but the system typically will not tell them why it was suspended.  They may also see a hold or a stop on the license that prevents them from renewing or changing your information.  They might ask questions – and if they find out that you drove there with a suspended license or recognize you from a wanted poster or something extreme, they might call the police.

A second concern, however, is that there might be a police officer or state trooper at the DMV.  If there is an officer at the MVC when you are there – or a permanent officer on site – they may be informed of certain records that pop up or whether someone with an outstanding warrant is sighted on premises.  These officers can arrest you on a bench warrant – or if they’re actively looking for you on a criminal arrest warrant, they can certainly arrest you at the DMV.

Call Our NJ Bench Warrant Lawyers for Help Clearing a Warrant

If you need to go to the DMV, but you know you have an outstanding warrant, it is better to get the bench warrant taken care of first.  Talk to one of our Cape May criminal defense attorneys today to learn more about how you can get a bench warrant cleared and for help addressing the charges against you without being arrested.  Our lawyers work to keep our clients out of jail and stop them from facing high fines and incarceration.  Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys today at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free legal consultation.