It can be scary to learn that a judge has issued a bench warrant for your arrest. Oftentimes, the fear that comes along with this prevents people from making the proper judgments about what to do next. It may be tempting to think that if you simply ignore a bench warrant, it will eventually be forgotten and you can go on with your life. However, this is not the case. Below, the experienced Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain the bench warrant process in New Jersey and what you should do if you find out a bench warrant has been issued against you.
What is a New Jersey Bench Warrant
A bench warrant is the name given to the type of warrant issued by a judge for your arrest. The judge can issue such a warrant in a number of situations, including when you fail to pay parking ticket or traffic ticket fines, violate your bail or bond conditions, violate your parole or probation, or fail to pay child support. By far the most common type of bench warrant issued is for failure to appear (FTA). If you do not show up to court for an arraignment or scheduled court hearing where your presence is required, the judge will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
In New Jersey, a suspension of your driver’s license is also often issued along with a bench warrant. This means that if the police run your tags or pull you over, you could be charged with the separate crime of driving with a suspended license. Depending on how many prior occasions you have been charged with driving with a suspended license, you could face up to 10 days in jail and fined up to $1,000 for this crime.
What Happens When a New Jersey Bench Warrant is Issued
Once a judge issues a bench warrant against you, whether it be for failure to appear in court or any other reason, you are subject to immediate arrest at any time by the police. If you are pulled over for a speeding violation and the officer who pulls you over runs a warrant check, they will see any bench warrants issued against you. If they find an active one, they will almost certainly place you under arrest right then and there. If your warrant was issued in another jurisdiction, you will be held in the local jail until such time as you can be transferred to the proper venue.
Bench warrants in New Jersey do not expire and are valid in any other state. In other words, if you are stopped for speeding in California 20 years after the warrant was issued, the California police can place you under arrest and hold you until such time as you can be transferred back to New Jersey’s jurisdiction.
If you arrested on a bench warrant, you will be held in jail for up 72 hours while a hearing before a judge is scheduled. Once before the judge, you will have to explain why you failed to appear and if the judge is not happy with your answer, they can choose to impose further penalties.
The Need to Have a Lawyer When Dealing with a New Jersey Bench Warrant
The best course of action in dealing with a bench warrant is to turn yourself in to the authorities as soon as possible. Especially if you have a reasonable excuse for failing to appear, you may be tempted to do this on your own and without an Atlantic City bench warrant attorney, thinking you can get everything cleared up without counsel’s assistance. This is not the best course of action.
From the start, an attorney will likely be able to speed up the process and have you spend as little time behind bars as possible. Experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyers like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zayrch have relationships with the local judges and prosecutors and can work to get you before a judge quicker than the 72-hour limit. They may even be able to negotiate a deal where the warrant is lifted without your officially being placed under arrest.
Further, a skilled attorney can help mitigate the damage that can be caused by a bench warrant. The following are just some of the repercussions you could face if you have a bench warrant issued against you:
- Revocation or increase of bail
- Revocation of the terms surrounding your parole or probation
- Disqualification from pre-trial intervention programs
- Additional fines, fees, and criminal charges
- Bench warrant appearing on your criminal record, preventing you from gaining future employment
A seasoned attorney like those on our firm’s team will understand how to advocate to the judge and present your side of the story. There is often a reasonable excuse for your violation. For FTA warrants, for example, sometimes the court clerks can issue you a citation with an incorrect date on it. You may rely on this information in showing up for your court date on Tuesday rather than Monday. Perhaps your summons was not delivered to the proper address, or you faced a serious medical emergency on your court date that prevented you from being there.
By hiring an attorney, you will have a trained fighter on your side who can work to make the judge understand your circumstances and why you should not face any serious consequences for your failure to appear or whatever other violation caused the bench warrant to be issued against you.
If You are Facing a Bench Warrant, Your First Step Should Be to Call a Veteran Criminal Defense Attorney
While it is not strictly necessary for you to have an attorney to turn yourself in on a bench warrant, it is always going to be in your best interest to do so. An attorney will know the ins and outs of the local court system and the best way to get your case handled in a speedy and satisfactory manner. They can help you turn yourself in and try to get your warrant recalled. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, we are here to help you navigate through tricky processes such as this one. If you know or suspect a bench warrant has been issued against you, call us today at (609) 616-4956.