Have an Active Warrant in New Jersey?
Whenever you have a deadline to resolve a court legal matter, like paying a ticket or appearing in court for a scheduled hearing, you run the risk of daunting consequences for missing a due date. As such, if you fail to show up at your DWI trial in municipal court, a judge can execute, or sign, a warrant for your arrest from the bench, meaning in the courtroom where you were supposed to be (NJ Court Rule 7:2-3). However, the judge may execute a bench warrant for other reasons, such as failing to show up to your arraignment, committing a parole or probation violation, violating bail conditions, falling behind on child support payments, and failing to comply with a court order, which is considered contempt of court. All defaulted court obligations come with the risk of arrest by a bench warrant.
What Makes a Bench Warrant Different
A judge executes a bench warrant when you fail to show up for a scheduled court date, whether to pay fines or comply with an order. It differs from other types of warrants for arrests or searches. A court issues a summons and warrant, or arrest warrant, to arrest one indicted for a crime or after a finding of probable cause that the named defendant prepared for, or participated in, a crime. The arrest order or search and seizure order must be issued after a judge considers proof that the warrant is necessary. But law enforcement may or may not pursue a warrant for arrest right away, while a bench warrant remains ready to use when they encounter the defendant named in the warrant.
Do bench warrants expire?
The bench warrant is directed to law enforcement to arrest a defendant and remains executed until the named party is taken into custody, the judge recalls the warrant, or the defendant fulfills the conditions of the warrant. And, to motivate a defendant to come forth and take care of their outstanding fines, child support arrears, or missed court appearance, a judge commonly suspends their driver’s license also. Thus, the court notifies the defendant of their suspended license, which remains suspended until the defendant surrenders to the court or takes care of the underlying cause of the warrant. A court can, however, voluntarily reverse the driver’s license suspension for a good reason.
How can you get a bench warrant removed?
A judge may retract the bench warrant for good cause. Perhaps you did not know the order existed. You may not know that a bench warrant for your arrest exists until you encounter the police. For example, the police may stop you in your car for speeding, rolling through a stop sign, or making an illegal lane change. Once you give them your license, registration, and insurance, the officer typically runs your license through a database where outstanding warrants for your arrest appear. If you have an open order for your arrest, the police arrest you on the spot and potentially impound your car unless a passenger or other individual can drive the vehicle to your home.
Once charged, you may stay in jail until a judge releases you. So, if you fail to pay a ticket, the judge may let you go after paying the ticket. However, if you were unable to appear at a hearing, the judge can decide whether to let you go pending the rescheduled hearing with or without bail conditions or some other guarantee of your return to court on the scheduled day. If you failed to appear at a hearing because of a new mailing address, or you forgot, confused the date, had an emergency on that date, or other reasons, the court may recall the warrant and allow you to reschedule the hearing and appear.
How to avoid a bench warrant being issued if you have to miss a court date
Despite life being unpredictable and fast-paced, it is generally never a good idea to fail to appear for a scheduled court date. There are very few reasons that the court considers valid in these cases, and if you are trying to resolve your case in the best manner possible, you should virtually always show up when required. As a matter of course, it is best to advise the court prior to the hearing or at least on the day of the hearing if you must miss your court date. In that way, the court does not suspect you of flouting the law by blowing off the hearing. If you have representation, an attorney can make that call and reschedule your hearing for you for valid reasons, if possible. They can also appear for you on the scheduled date to explain to the court why you cannot appear. The court may or may not accept your excuse, but the court is not as likely to issue a bench warrant if your attorney appeared for you rather than no one appearing on that date.
What if your bench warrant is based on failure to fulfill conditions of a court order?
Your attorney may also help you get the bench warrant dismissed if you failed complete a court-ordered task or attend a hearing. At a hearing on recalling the bench warrant, your attorney can explain to the court why you missed your deadline to appear or perform a task, like pay child support. The court may ask for proof then or reschedule the hearing you missed or extend the date for you to complete whatever needs to be performed to fulfill your obligations. If you failed to pay support or are in contempt of court, the judge may give you time to file the appropriate motion in the proper court to address the underlying cause for being summoned to court. That being said, you should not expect the warrant to be lifted without you satisfying the court-ordered conditions.
Likewise, if you have a pending contempt charge based on a violation of a restraining order or another offense, you will need to defend against the underlying criminal charges in court to avoid facing a conviction and the serious penalties associated therewith. Keep in mind, violating a restraining order resulting in a contempt charge can lead to anywhere from 6 months in jail to 18 months in state prison, among other severe consequences. If you have been charged with contempt of contempt, you should immediately seek counsel from an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can protect your rights and minimize or circumvent the repercussions you now face.
What to do if you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest in Morris County and New Jersey
If you have an outstanding bench warrant, you not only risk arrest and jail, you also lose your driver’s license for a time, risk having your parole or probation revoked, and have a criminal charge on your record that may prevent you from getting a job, living where you want to live, and more. The consequences for an outstanding bench warrant may be devastating. Do not wait until you get arrested to take care of an outstanding bench warrant. And even if you do get arrested, you will need the help of a criminal defense attorney who handles bench warrants and detention hearings all the time.
Contact a seasoned criminal trial lawyer who has represented manifold clients facing warrants and criminal charges of every degree in courts across New Jersey for years. Do not defend yourself alone; seek the legal counsel of an experienced lawyer today. Call 973-524-7238 to discuss your case in a free consultation.