MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The shared municipal court of Maplewood and South Orange has implemented a walk-in warrant policy, which allows a defendant with a court warrant to appear in front of a judge on the day of their own choosing without scheduling an appearance. Those who have warrants can tell the judge why they failed to appear in court earlier and resolve their issue that same day.
“Everyone will have access to the judge when normally it would have to be scheduled,” municipal court administrator Ryan Bancroft said in a Feb. 5 phone interview with the News-Record. “They want to get it resolved, and we get it resolved that day.”
Bancroft said that the policy benefits those who would not have the money to post bail if it were necessary, or other legitimate reasons for not appearing in court.
“It just made sense,” he said. “I would say 95 to 98 percent of the time, the judge will recall the warrant.”
The new policy also helps the court with the backlog that sometimes builds up in the administration office as it eliminates scheduling future court dates.
The policy is similar to Fugitive Safe Surrender, the state program that allows wanted persons to turn themselves, allowing them the possibility of same day resolutions to their issues. It also protects law enforcement officers in the case of more serious criminal charges, as there is no threat of violence, Bancroft said.
“It tries to protect law enforcement from arresting people and not put law enforcement in harm’s way,” Bancroft said. “No one wants to walk around in fear of being arrested. It helps your state of mind, your control of your life. It was time to do something at the local level; people should have access to the courts.”
Bancroft pointed out that, while residents with warrants will be able to be heard in court on the day of their choosing, the process will still take some time. They will most likely be heard at the end of the court session, after what is already scheduled.
“We do tell people it may take some time,” Bancroft said. “Their file has to be pulled and they most likely will be added towards the end of the session. There are people who are scheduled who did it the right way and don’t have a warrant. But maybe there is a good reason why (some don’t), like not having the money or having to go to work. We don’t want to deny access to the court to people without money. It will still be solved that day.”