If you missed a court date, the judge might have issued a bench warrant.  This warrant authorized any police officer in New Jersey to arrest you and drag you back to court to face the charges against you.  Unlike uncharged offenses, which might expire after the statute of limitations passes, a bench warrant does not typically expire.  The Atlantic City bench warrant lawyers explain what it takes to make a bench warrant go away in New Jersey, and how long that process usually takes.

Do Bench Warrants Have a Statute of Limitations?

A “statute of limitations” is the amount of time that the government has to file criminal charges against a defendant.  Typically, the statute of limitations starts running from the date the crime happens.  Most minor crimes have a 1-year statute of limitations in New Jersey, but more severe crimes have a 5-year statute of limitations, and homicide crimes usually have no statute of limitations.  These limitations mean that the government cannot wait too long to charge you with a crime, or else they miss the chance to do so.  For instance, if you committed a crime with a 1-year statute of limitations, and the police knew about it and investigated, but never caught you, they will not be able to charge you with the crime more than a year after it occurred.  New Jersey bench warrants, however, do not have these same limitations.

Prosecutors merely need to find probable cause and file charges against someone to meet the statute of limitations.  After that point, laws requiring a “speedy trial” might kick in and enforce how long the government has to prosecute the case since unfair delays on the government’s part can drag a trial out and cause unnecessary stress for the defendant.  However, if the delays are caused by the defendant, the law typically does not set any additional time restrictions on the government.

Bench warrants are typically issued for a failure to appear in court, which means that they are issued against defendants who already knew they were charged with a crime, were given a court date, and failed to appear at that court date.  This means that the case has already been filed against and the statute of limitations has already been met.  Any further delays you cause by not appearing in court do not put any additional restrictions on the government.

So, ultimately, a bench warrant can linger on record as long as it takes to find you, arrest you, and get you into court so that the trial against you can continue.  These warrants typically do not have expiration dates or statutes of limitations that allow you to get away if you wait long enough; a bench warrant can stay on record indefinitely.

How Long Does It Take to Lift a Bench Warrant in NJ?

If you are caught with a warrant, a police officer will arrest you and take you to jail where you may have to stay while you await trial.  However, the judge’s main goal in issuing a bench warrant is just to get you in the door so that they can continue with the case.  That means that a judge doesn’t need you to be arrested; if you are willing to come in and clear up the charges, the judge can typically drop the warrant.

To get a warrant cleared or lifted, you can usually have your attorney call the court where the warrant was issued.  They might be able to discuss the case with the clerks at the court, find out what charges are pending against you, and reschedule a new court date.  At that point, the judge might lift the bench warrant and allow you to come into court of your own free will, removing the need for a bench warrant or an arrest.

In many cases, the warrant can be lifted right away, with the judge or another person with authority at the courthouse cancelling the warrant and having it cleared from the system.  This might have a bit of a delay for the system to update, but unless your lawyer does this while you’re getting pulled over by a cop, it is unlikely this delay will affect you.

In some cases, a judge might refuse to have the warrant lifted, but they will allow you to schedule a new court date to come in on your own.  In that case, the warrant might still stand on record, but if you appear in court and handle the case, the warrant will be lifted.  This means that you should reschedule the court date as soon as possible to get the warrant lifted sooner.  This might be difficult to do if the court is especially busy and has a lot of cases to handle.

Once the case resumes, the court will reassess bail options at a bail hearing.  If you have a history of failing to appear in court and you also needed to have a bench warrant issued in this case, a court might want to keep you in jail while you await trial to make sure that you show up to court.  Your attorney can help fight to keep you out of jail during the trial.

Call Our Atlantic City Bench Warrant Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you have a bench warrant in your name, it is important to address the warrant and get it dropped so that you can avoid arrest, get your case taken care of, and deal with any pending charges.  For a free legal consultation on your case, call our Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys today at (609) 616-4956.