Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced a directive instructing law enforcement agencies to no longer, in most instances, subject individuals encountered with municipal court bench warrants with bail amounts of $500 or less to custodial arrest.  Instead, those individuals—who are already generally released after arrest—will now be given notice of a new court date and released on scene.  Attorney General Directive 2022-6 is being issued today in conjunction with Directive #04-22 of the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).  Together, these policies seek both to avoid the ramifications of arrest for individuals on such outstanding bench warrants and to use law enforcement resources more efficiently and safely.

Municipal courts adjudicate traffic offenses, local ordinance violations, and disorderly persons offenses, such as shoplifting, and most result in the offender owing fines or fees.  If a person fails to appear in municipal court or pay the money they owe, the court can issue a warrant for their arrest, called a bench warrant.  Though the number has decreased significantly in recent years, hundreds of thousands of municipal court bench warrants remain outstanding in New Jersey.  If law enforcement encounters an individual with such a warrant, they must arrest that person, even if the underlying offense was a traffic ticket or a similarly minor offense.  Not only is the possibility of arrest at any moment disruptive to a person’s life, it can also heighten the tension surrounding interactions with law enforcement, increasing the possibility of more volatile encounters.  Moreover, effectuating these arrests and processing the individuals requires significant law enforcement time and resources. Read More from NJOAG.GOV.