Top Things to Know about NJ Bench and Arrest Warrants

hands with handcuffs lying on top of fingerprint sheets.

Warrant Defense Lawyers in Middlesex County, New Jersey

Learning that you have a warrant out for your arrest can come as a shock, and it happens more frequently than you might think. If you believe that a warrant has been issued for you, or you recently found out about an outstanding warrant, you should know the difference between at two major types of warrants in New Jersey: arrest warrants and bench warrants. Here, our experienced Middlesex County criminal defense lawyers explain the top things you should know about NJ warrants for arrest and what it means for the criminal process. If you need help with an outstanding warrant out of Middlesex County or a local court in New Brunswick, Edison, Woodbridge, Piscataway, South Brunswick, or Monroe, contact us today at (732) 659-9600 to speak with an attorney free of charge.

New Jersey Arrest Warrants: When Police Seek You Out

Arrest warrants are probably the most well-known warrants routinely issued in New Jersey. An arrest warrant is issued if a grand jury or law enforcement concludes that there is “probable cause” that you have committed a crime. A probable cause determination depends on the totality of the circumstances related to your alleged illegal activity, based on reasonable conclusions drawn from available evidence. Assuming that probable cause has been established, a judge will authorize issuance of a warrant for your arrest. The arrest warrant will be entered in criminal databases and provided to law enforcement. An arrest warrant authorizes law enforcement to seek out, arrest, and detain you.

It is important to note that an arrest warrant is not required for all criminal arrests. For example, police in hot pursuit of a suspect who allegedly assaulted an officercommitted a robbery, or is attempting to elude police, do not necessarily need to obtain a warrant prior to making an arrest. But if police have investigated a case over a period of months and only develop probable cause to arrest you after that investigation, they are often required to obtain a warrant prior entering your home or arresting you in a non-public place. This is common in narcotics investigations resulting in charges for heroin distributionmaintaining a CDS production facility, or illegally growing marijuana. Certain serious first and second degree crimes like murder, kidnapping, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault, arson, burglary, and other violent crimes or crimes that involve guns often result in the issuance of an arrest warrant in New Jersey.

NJ Bench Warrants: When You Find out after the Fact

A bench warrant is another common type of warrant issued in New Jersey. This type of warrant is different from an arrest warrant in a number of key ways. Law enforcement and/or a grand jury do not have to make a probable cause determination before a bench warrant is issued. A judge will typically issue a bench warrant when you fail to appear for court, fail to pay a fine, fail to pay child support, fail to respond to a subpoena, or when you violate a similar court order. A bench warrant authorizes your immediate arrest, but police typically do not initiate a manhunt to enforce a bench warrant in the way that they might actively seek out someone with an arrest warrant. A bench warrant may also result in suspension of your driver’s license.

There’s a Warrant for my Arrest in Middlesex County, What Should I do?

You should absolutely speak with a qualified NJ criminal defense lawyer to get legal advice on how to respond to a warrant. For example, if you learn that an arrest warrant has been issued for you, your attorney may advise you to turn yourself in to law enforcement, rather than waiting for law enforcement to pick you up, to help resolve your warrant as soon as possible. If a bench warrant has been issued for you, you should similarly ask a knowledgeable attorney what to do. The situation can be sensitive, and you may be facing jail time and other serious consequences. Your attorney may advise you to report to the court that issued the warrant with the fine, child support payment, or proof of completion of the outstanding obligation in hand so that you can clear the warrant. They may also tell you that because you failed to appear in court, you’ll need to resolve the outstanding warrant and resume the case in order to avoid further consequences.

Remember, these are general statements and cannot substitute for legal advice provided by a criminal lawyer who is familiar with the unique facts of your case. To get help with a warrant for your arrest or if someone you know has been arrested, call (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation with a Middlesex County criminal defense lawyer at our firm.

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.