The Basics of Arrest Warrants in NJ


Although most people tend to think of arrest warrants as only applying in the most serious criminal cases, such as murder, sexual assault, or a crime involving the use of a gun, the reality is that there are many situations in which a warrant can be issued for someone’s arrest. Of course, there are still rules in place to limit the ability of the authorities to actually place a person under arrest. Simply put, the police can’t bust your front door open, enter your home, and arrest you just because they have nothing more than a “hunch” that you’ve committed a crime. They must have either:

(1) probable cause to enter your residence and then arrest you, or

(2) an arrest warrant that has been signed off on by a judge.

Assuming that a warrant had been issued for your arrest, you would most likely be placed under arrest and then ultimately brought to court. It’s possible that the judge would then set conditions of bail or release you on your own recognizance while you await trial. It’s also possible that you could be denied release altogether after a detention hearing, and you would then be held in jail until your case is resolved. The severe consequences of simply being arrested, to say nothing of being convicted, should highlight the importance of securing legal representation from an established, highly reputable criminal defense lawyer who has experience dealing with arrest warrants and criminal charges large and small in New Jersey.

The attorneys at our criminal law office handle all aspects of the process for criminal cases in Union County, NJ, defending clients facing charges such as burglaryaggravated assaulteluding a police officerunlawful possession of a weapondrug possession and distribution. To speak with a member of our team regarding your criminal charges, contact us at (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation.

The Different Types of Arrest Warrants in New Jersey

Generally speaking, an arrest warrant gives police the legal authority to place an individual under arrest and eventually take him or her to court. In most instances, a complaint-warrant must first be filed with the court, and a judge must then authorize the warrant before police can make an arrest. NJ law requires the judge to sign the warrant either with a written or electronic signature, and the warrant must include certain information, such as the defendant’s name, the court where the defendant will need to appear after being arrested, and a written basis for why probable cause for an arrest was found to exist.

Or you may have had a warrant issued for your arrest for another reason, such as failing to show up for a required court appearance or violating your parole or probation in another case. Depending on the circumstances, it’s entirely possible that you do not even realize that there is a warrant. So, how will you find out? For starters, the police may come to your home or workplace and simply arrest you on the spot. Another common situation that can lead to a person finding out that they have a warrant is being pulled over by police for a traffic stop, only to then be placed under arrest when police run a computer check and see that the person has a warrant.

More specifically, there are several different types of warrants that can be issued for someone’s arrest in New Jersey, and the way that these warrants are issued and enforced can differ. The general process for issuing arrest warrants and summonses in New Jersey can be found in NJ Court Rule 7:2-2.

A Bench Warrant may be issued for Failing to Follow Rules of the Court.

If the defendant failed to follow the instructions of the court, such as failing to show up for a scheduled court date, failing to pay a court-ordered fine, failing to pay child support, or failing to perform court-imposed community service. This type of warrant is known as a “bench warrant” because it is initiated by a judge. It may also apply if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant violated the terms of their parole or if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant violated the terms of a probationary sentence (probation violation). Violating conditions of bail or otherwise being in contempt of a court order can likewise lead to a bench warrant being issued.

An Arrest Warrant may be Issued at Multiple Points in the Criminal Process:

  • Complaint-Warrant for Committing a Crime: An arrest warrant may be issued if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a criminal offense. There is also a similar type of warrant known as a “summons,” which will require the defendant to show up for court. A summons may be issued if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a less serious offense that doesn’t necessitate arrest and/or detention.
  • Warrant Upon Indictment: A warrant may be issued by a Superior Court judge after the defendant has been formally charged with a felony-level offense or after the defendant has actually been indicted by a grand jury on felony charges. This rule is codified in NJ Court Rule 3:7-8, which deals with indictments and accusations in court. It is important to note that a Warrant Upon Indictment can only be issued when the defendant has been charged with an indictable offense, which means a more serious crime classified as either a first degreesecond degreethird degree, or fourth degree crime (felony).

Reasons that Arrest Warrants Happen in NJ

Most cases do not require the defendant to be charged on a complaint-warrant, as opposed to a complaint-summons. A summons may be issued to a person who has been charged with an offense that didn’t involve violence and that didn’t pose any significant danger to another person. These types of charges may be classified as disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses (which are handled at the Municipal Court level) or as third or fourth degree charges (which are handled at the Superior Court level). If you have been accused of one of these offenses, you will still need to appear in court to address the charges. If you receive a summons, the summons contains information about the charges you face, the court where you will need to appear, and the date and time of your scheduled court date.

By contrast, an arrest warrant is often deemed appropriate when the defendant has been charged with a very serious crime that involved violence or the use of a firearm. Some of the most common criminal charges that can give rise to an arrest warrant include the following:

A complaint-warrant authorizing your arrest may be issued if you have been charged with one of the felony offenses listed above, but there are many other charges that are presumed to be charged in this manner as well. Some of these include: disarming a law enforcement officer, extortion, strict liability for drug induced deaths, and allowing a child to participate in a sexual act under the child endangerment statute.

Warrant for Your Arrest in Union County NJ? Speak to a Lawyer Who Can Help

If you’ve been accused of a crime and an arrest warrant has been issued, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not wait for the police to actually place you under arrest before talking to a lawyer who can help guide you through the process, protect your rights and your safety during the actual arrest, and help you maintain your freedom by avoiding detention while you await resolution of the charges. Our criminal lawyers have extensive defense experience handling all manner of criminal charges against our clients in Elizabeth, Cranford, Linden, Roselle Park, Springfield, Union Township, and surrounding communities. For a free criminal defense consultation, contact us online or by phone at (908) 838-0150 now.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.