A bench warrant is usually issued when someone fails to appear in court for a required hearing. If you were charged with a crime and didn’t show up to court because you didn’t know when your hearing date was or because you didn’t reschedule after a conflict – or if you simply refused to go – there might be a bench warrant for you that could lead to re-arrest and additional problems. The penalties for a bench warrant itself can always include arrest, but a bench warrant’s overall seriousness depends on what underlying charges you face. The Atlantic City bench warrant lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain.
What Are the Penalties for a Bench Warrant in NJ?
A bench warrant is issued by a judge to authorize an arrest. These warrants are different from the warrants used for a search or an arrest during an investigation since those warrants are issued at the request of a police officer or another law enforcement officer. When a judge issues a bench warrant, it usually means that they need to have the person brought into court for some reason. The most common reason that a bench warrant is issued is for a failure to appear to address charges at a mandatory court date, but a judge might issue a bench warrant in other cases, too.
A bench warrant is not a form of punishment, but there are certain consequences to getting a bench warrant. In theory, these warrants are simply tools that the government uses to get people into court and so it can perform its functions, but a court accomplishes these goals by restricting freedoms and authorizing arrests. Having a New Jersey bench warrant on file means that any police officer that comes across you in the state can arrest you and take you straight to jail. There may also be other restrictions, such as a hold on your driver’s license so that you cannot renew it, or you could face a driver’s license suspension.
Can You Be Released After a Bench Warrant Arrest in New Jersey?
When you are arrested on a bench warrant, you are usually brought back to jail. At that point, you might be released again, or a judge might increase your bail. Bail amounts are usually set based on factors such as the seriousness of the crime, the defendant’s ability to pay bail, and the defendant’s flight risk. If you have already failed to appear in court once, a judge might find that you are a higher flight risk and that you might not return to court if you are released. In some cases, this might mean that the judge requires cash bail or denies your bail altogether, meaning that you will have to wait in jail until your trial is completed.
Facing Criminal Charges After a Bench Warrant
Since bench warrants are issued for a failure to appear in court, there must be some underlying court case in the first place. Usually, you will only have a bench warrant for your arrest if there is already a case pending against you.
A judge should only issue a bench warrant in a case where you were already arrested or charged with the crime and given good notice of your court date. Some bench warrants are issued by mistake or because of communication issues with notice or court scheduling, but the majority of people with bench warrants should have a ticket or some sort of charging documents that say what charges they are up on.
Once you return to court, you will still need to confront the charges you were facing before the bench warrant was issued. This means hiring a defense lawyer to either negotiate a plea deal for reduced penalties or challenge the charges at trial. Depending on what charges you face, the potential penalties in your case could be quite high. Even serious misdemeanor charges (disorderly persons offenses) can include up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. More serious charges could result in years of jail time and even higher fines.
Getting a Bench Warrant Dropped in New Jersey
As long as there is an active bench warrant against you, you could be arrested any time you come across a police officer. When that happens, you will be dragged off to jail or taken back to court to address the charges against you. Instead of letting that happen, however, you may be able to contact the court and get the bench warrant dropped.
Your lawyer can help contact the court on your behalf. This will usually give you an opportunity to find out what charges the bench warrant is for – if you did not already know – and to reschedule a new court date. If the judge is willing to accept the rescheduled court date, the bench warrant can be lifted. Sometimes, a judge might be unwilling to drop the bench warrant, and it is vital to appear at your next court date to avoid being re-arrested for failing to appear.
Your attorney can guide you through this process and help you avoid being re-arrested by getting bench warrants dropped and lifted.
Call Our Atlantic City Bench Warrant Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one has a bench warrant against them, it is absolutely important to talk to a lawyer about your options. If you are arrested on a bench warrant, you could be taken back to jail, lose your opportunity for bail, and face penalties for the underlying charges. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers today for a free legal consultation and help fighting the bench warrants and charges against you. For your free consultation, call us at (609) 616-4956.