Sometimes, people in New Jersey and elsewhere are required to go to court to answer for relatively minor municipal charges. These can include things such as unpaid parking tickets, moving violations and other low-level offenses. Typically, people receive a court date to answer the charges as well as fines they must pay, and when they do not show up or pay the required fines, the magistrate issues a bench warrant for their arrest. Now, the state’s top lawyer has announced that law enforcement officials in the Garden State will no longer arrest individuals for low-level municipal bench warrants.
New policy explained
Acting Attorney General for New Jersey, Matthew Platkin, recently announced a new policy regarding police arresting individuals for outstanding municipal bench warrants and bail amounts less than $500. Instead of arresting the individual for offenses such as not appearing for a court date for a low-level offense, authorities will now simply issue a new court date and release the individual. In the past, offenders who missed a court date for a minor violation could be arrested at a traffic stop or some other routine interaction with police.
The new policy has received widespread support from several law enforcement agencies. Dealing with these types of low-level offenses eats up a lot of department resources and takes time away from investigating and prosecuting more serious crimes. Organizations such as the ACLU have gotten on board with the new policy as well, as bench warrant arrests for low-level offenses are seen as disruptive and unnecessary.
Continued need for criminal defense
While this new policy may come as a relief to some in New Jersey, it does not preclude law enforcement from making arrests, especially if the individual has warrants for more serious charges. Nevertheless, people can still enlist the assistance of defense counsel for help with low-level criminal offenses, and should they be arrested on a bench warrant, they will certainly want a legal ally in their corner to help them fight the charges. A criminal defense attorney will work closely with the client to obtain the best outcome possible, considering the circumstances and formal charges.