What Is the Difference Between a Warrant and a Bench Warrant in New Jersey?

There are three major types of warrants issued in New Jersey: search warrants, arrest warrants, and bench warrants. The first two types are fairly easy to understand based on their names alone; a search warrant allows the police to search your home, car, or other private property, and an arrest warrant allows the police to arrest you for a crime. However, bench warrants can be more difficult to understand. They are typically issued by a judge when a defendant fails to appear in court or to comply with a court order of some kind. Below, our experienced Atlantic City bench warrant lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych take you through what each of these types of warrants entails, with a particular emphasis on bench warrants.

The Differences Between the Three Main Types of Warrants in New Jersey

Each of the three major types of warrants has to be approved at some point in the process by a judge. However, only a bench warrant is issued at the behest of a judge. For search warrants and arrest warrants, a police officer will make a request to a judge to issue the warrant. Below, each of the three types of warrants is explored.

Search Warrant

A search warrant is requested by a police officer when they believe that there is evidence of a crime in someone’s home, office, car, or another place they typically cannot enter without permission of the owner. In order for a judge to grant the request for a search warrant, the officer must make the case that there is probable cause to believe that specific evidence will be found in the home. A search warrant must describe with particularity the evidence to be seized and the person or place to be searched.

Arrest Warrant

An arrest warrant is requested by an officer when they believe they have probable cause to arrest someone for the commission of a crime. Whether you will have a warrant put out for your arrest or simply be issued a summons to appear in court depends on the severity of the crime you are alleged to have committed.

For more serious crimes, an investigation will likely occur prior to deciding to arrest someone, and the officer will then go before a judge to explain why the police believe there is probable cause to arrest you for the crime. If the judge approves the warrant, the police will execute it by coming to your home or workplace (or anywhere else the warrant permits them to enter to find you) and placing you under arrest.

Bench Warrant

Unlike an arrest warrant or a search warrant, a bench warrant is not initiated by the police as they investigate the commission of crimes. Instead, a bench warrant is initiated by a judge in response to someone failing to meet their obligations as prescribed by the court. For example, if the judge finds you have violated the terms of your parole or bail by leaving the area to which you were restricted, they may issue a bench warrant. Most commonly, bench warrants in New Jersey are issued in response to a failure to appear (FTA), when you do not show up to a court date at which you are required to appear.

What Happens When a Bench Warrant Is Issued Against You in New Jersey

It may be tempting to think of a bench warrant as less serious than the other types of warrant, but this is not necessarily the case. Just like with an arrest warrant, a bench warrant subjects you to immediate arrest by police officers anytime and anyplace they may encounter you.

While it is true that the police will not necessarily come for you immediately to enforce a bench warrant in the same way they will with an arrest warrant, this does not mean that it will not eventually catch up to you. These warrants do not expire and if you ever encounter the police, even during a minor traffic stop, they will likely run a warrant check and arrest you for any outstanding warrants. Furthermore, a suspension of your driver’s license is typically issued alongside the bench warrant and if the police run your plates, you can be arrested not only for the warrant but for the separate charge or driving with a suspended license.

Why You Should Always Retain An Attorney When A Bench Warrant Is Issued Against You in New Jersey

The best thing you can do when faced with a bench warrant is to turn yourself in to the police as soon as you learn of it to get the situation remedied. However, it is always smart to contact an experienced New Jersey bench warrant attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych before turning yourself in. Typically, the police will hold you in jail for up to 72 hours while they schedule a hearing before the judge who issued the warrant. A skilled attorney can attempt to negotiate your surrender so that you are not arrested and can simply go before the judge to get this resolved.

Furthermore, bench warrants can come with serious consequences. The judge could choose to hold you in jail while your underlying criminal matter is settled. They could also impose or increase bail, impose fines, or find you in violation of probation. The judge may also be less inclined to settle your case or to allow you into a pre-trial intervention program if they believe you are ignoring court orders.

Our Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys can work to prevent these serious consequences by explaining your side of the case. They can help the judge understand the reason that you failed to appear, which is often understandable. Without an attorney who understands the system, it will be much for difficult for you to mitigate the damage a bench warrant can cause to your case.

Call Our Experienced Bench Warrant Attorneys Today

While bench warrants are different than search warrants and arrest warrants in that they are not issued by the police and are not always actively pursued, this does not mean they are any less serious or that they will not catch up to you eventually. It is vital that, as soon as you learn a bench warrant has been issued against you, you contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych to help guide you through the process. Call us today at (609) 616-4956 for a free and confidential consultation.

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