The Covid-19 pandemic has caused mass confusion and fear across the country and the world. In Philadelphia, we are under strict lockdown orders from the mayor and the governor. This means that only essential workers and folks doing essential activities like visiting the pharmacy or shopping for groceries are permitted to leave their homes. All businesses that have been deemed non-essential are required to close down. This has left many people wondering about the status of the court system and law enforcement during this time. Below, our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long explain whether and how bench and arrest warrants are being enforced during the pandemic and what you should do if you find out one has been issued against you.
Is the Philadelphia Court System Operating During Covid-19?
The Philadelphia criminal court system has postponed most in-person proceedings, including all jury trials, while the public health emergency is ongoing. Some proceedings considered emergent such as bail hearings and applications for restraining orders based on domestic abuse are still being held, although many of these are being held remotely. If you had an upcoming court date in your criminal case, you will most likely receive notice that it has been rescheduled or postponed indefinitely.
If you have not received such a notice, or the notice you receive is confusing or unclear, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away. You absolutely should not just fail to show up for a scheduled hearing and assume that it has been rescheduled due to Covid-19. Your lawyer can reach out the court and prosecutor’s office to check on the status of your case, whether any upcoming dates have been rescheduled or postponed, and whether there is anything further that can be done to advance your case at this time.
Bench Warrants in Philadelphia During Covid-19
A bench warrant is a warrant issued for your arrest by a judge when your fail to meet your obligations under the criminal court system. Bench warrants are most commonly issued by judges when a criminal defendant out on bail fails to show up for their assigned court date. Judges can also issue bench warrant for those who violate conditions of their probation or parole or those who fail to make payments toward their court-assessed fines and fees. Once a bench warrant has been issued against you, you can be arrested at any time.
Typically, police do not come to your home or place of work to enforce a bench warrant like they will with an arrest warrant. However, bench warrants do not expire and you can be apprehended for one any time you come into contact with a law enforcement officer, even during a routine traffic stop. If you fail to deal with your warrant, the threat of arrest will be hanging over your head until you do.
The best thing for someone who knows or believes they have a bench warrant issued against them to do at this time is to contact an experienced Philadelphia bench warrant lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. We can get into contact with court officials and the police and try to negotiate it so you can appear before the judge to deal with the warrant without spending time in jail. We know that sometimes people miss court for reasonable purposes, and we will work to tell the judge your side of the story so that they do not revoke your bail or impose further penalties on you.
Arrest Warrants in Philadelphia During Covid-19
Just because the criminal courts in Philadelphia are largely closed down, this does not mean that law enforcement is not working. Police officers are continuing to make arrests during this time. Many officers are out patrolling the streets more than ever to enforce the governor’s stay-at-home order. If there was an investigation into a crime you allegedly committed, such as robbery, the investigation will continue and an arrest warrant can be applied for remotely. Once a warrant is granted, the police will come to your home and place you under arrest.
After you are arrested, you will be taken to the local police station to undergo the booking process. Once the booking process is completed, you will be put into a holding cell or transferred to the local detention center until you can get before a judge for a bail hearing. Philadelphia already conducted almost all of its bail hearings via videoconferencing, so the technology is in place. However, you can still expect delays and to spend more time in jail than usual waiting for your bail hearing during this uncertain time.
As jails are not places conducive to hygiene or social distancing, you do not want to spend any more time than you have to waiting in one at the moment. You or your loved ones should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long as soon as possible so that we can start working on getting you before a judge right away. At your bail hearing, our attorneys will fight to get you released on little to no bail so that financial issues do not delay you getting home to safety. Once you are released, we will get a sense of what next steps can be taken in your case while the courts are closed.
If You Are Concerned About a Warrant, Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Even during the best of times, no one wants to live with the threat of being arrested and spending time behind bars over their head. Especially now, it is important for your safety and the safety of your loved ones that you do not spend time in a facility from which you could bring home the virus. At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our attorneys can work to get bench warrants quashed before they lead to serious consequences. If you have been arrested, we will fight to get you out of custody as quickly as possible. Call us today at (215) 302-0171 for a free consultation.