New Directives Restrict When Warrant Arrests Can be Made
June 23, 2022- Posted by Ed Esposito
On June 23, 2022, the latest AG Directive (2022-06) will take effect and require all law enforcement officers to follow the recently issued Directive (04-22) of the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts concerning municipal court bench warrants. The new directives state that individuals encountered with “qualifying warrants” should generally not be subject to a custodial arrest, a search, or handcuffing, unless issuing the notice on scene poses a safety risk or probable cause that a crime has been committed or a pre-existing circumstance—independent of the warrant—justifies such action. A ”qualifying warrant” is a municipal court warrant with bail set at $500 or less where the underlying offense does not involve domestic violence.
When officers encounter a person who has an outstanding qualifying warrant and is not otherwise subject to arrest, they must generally release the person at the scene on their own recognizance. On rare occasions, an officer may—in their discretion—determine that an individual is not suitable to be released on their own recognizance. Examples where this may apply include persons who have an unusually high number of outstanding qualifying warrants. However, individuals with multiple qualifying warrants should generally have the warrants considered individually and not added together unless there is a substantial risk of nonappearance.
The release of a person with a qualifying warrant will generally be done at the location where the person is encountered. Officers should obtain valid identification from the individual or otherwise take reasonable steps to verify their identity and current address before releasing the individual on their own recognizance. The Directive states, “If an individual refuses to provide information for or sign the bail recognizance form, the individual may be taken into custody on the outstanding warrant.”
Specific conditions are to be reported in the bail recognizance form completed by the officer, with copies issued to the individual and the relevant court(s). These conditions apply regardless of what municipal court (including courts in other counties) issued the warrant. If multiple qualifying warrants exist, a separate bail recognizance must be issued for each warrant. The conditions to be recorded are:
- Updated address and contact information for the individual.
- Date and time on which the individual must appear before the municipal court that issued the warrant.
- Notice to the individual that a failure to appear may reinstate the warrant.
- Individual’s signature.
When selecting an appearance date, officers should select dates two weeks from the date of the encounter. If the court is not in session on that date, the officer should select the first available court date following the two-week period, or as otherwise provided by the procedures of the jurisdiction issuing the warrant. There is a list dates and telephone numbers for all of New Jersey’s municipal courts online at www.njcourts.gov/courts where you click the appropriate link.