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N.J. cops will no longer arrest people who skip court, don’t pay fines on minor offenses

A new policy has support from several law enforcement groups


Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin speaks at a March 30, 2022 press conference at the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office in Trenton.

Kevin Shea

By S.P. Sullivan

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s attorney general said this week that police officers will no longer arrest people who are wanted for skipping court dates for minor crimes or missing a payment.

Police in the Garden State should no longer arrest people they encounter with municipal “bench warrants” with bail amounts of $500 or less, acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin ordered in a directive sent to State Police and local departments.

Under the new rule, “residents will no longer be subjected to unnecessary and intrusive custodial arrests for hundreds of thousands of outstanding low-level warrants—and officers across New Jersey will avoid spending time effectuating and processing such arrests that by and large do not further public safety,” Platkin said in a statement.

The new policy has the support of a host of law enforcement groups, including the state association of police chiefs, the ACLU, Black clergy and the state’s largest police unions.

Previously, a person who missed a court date for something as minor as a parking ticket could find themself with a warrant for their arrest and police officers had little discretion in hauling them in during a traffic stop or other routine interaction.

Now, anyone with a warrant for less than $500 will be given notice of a new court date and released.

“These are low-level offenses in which municipal courts routinely issue new dates,’ John Zebrowski, the Sayreville police chief, said in a statement.

“These are low-level offenses in which municipal courts routinely issue new dates. This directive allows police officers to remain in-service and on patrol by reducing the time spent encountering the public about municipal court bench warrants.”

Jeanne LoCicero, the legal director for the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, called the measure “an important step in preventing unnecessary arrests and jail time, which disrupt lives, jobs, and families.”

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