The constitution grants individual citizens an expectation of privacy in their own homes. This right to privacy has been further enshrined in state constitutions as well as state and federal laws. Because the right is so strongly rooted in our rights and traditions, the police are normally not able to enter your home or place or business absent your consent or a valid warrant. While it is clear that a valid search warrant allows the police to enter your home and search the areas within the scope of the warrant, some folks are unsure if and how much of your home police are allowed to search if they do not possess a search warrant but do possess a warrant for your arrest, such as a bench warrant. Below, our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long explain what a bench warrant is, whether police can enter your home and conduct a search if they possess one, and what our firm can do to help you deal with a bench warrant before the police show up at your door.
What is a Philadelphia Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a warrant issued by the court when you fail to meet one of your obligations as part of a criminal case. Unlike arrest warrants, which are issued by the police after making an application to a judge, bench warrants are issued by the judge on their initiative. The most common reason a judge will choose to issue a bench warrant is if you fail to appear for court as required. However, bench warrants can also be issued for failure to pay court-ordered child support, failure to pay fines and fees assessed by the court, or failure to appear as a witness when subpoenaed, among other reasons. But, how serious is a Philadelphia bench warrant in terms of penalties?
Once a bench warrant is issued against you, the police can arrest you at any time. It is true that police do not usually act immediately on a bench warrant by coming to your home or place of business to place you under arrest. More commonly, you will end up arrested after you are pulled over for a routine traffic stop and the officer runs a warrant check on you. However, in some cases, especially where you are out on bail for a serious crime and do not show up for court, the police may be sent to your home to execute the warrant and bring you into custody right away. If you are unsure how to find out if you have a bench warrant in Philadelphia, call attorney Lloyd Long today.
Does a Bench Warrant Allow the Police to Enter and Search Your Home in Philadelphia?
As with an arrest warrant, a police are permitted to enter your home to execute a bench warrant and place you under arrest. However, the officers are required to knock and clearly announce their presence and the fact that they have a warrant. Only after they have done this and waited for a reasonable period for you to answer are they permitted to use force to open the door, unless exigent circumstances are present, such as the officer believing their lives could be in danger if they knock and announce. Otherwise, their failure to do so can result in the any evidence found in a corresponding search being deemed inadmissible. A skilled Montgomery County criminal defense lawyer for illegal search and seizures like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long will be able to help you file a motion to exclude any evidence obtained as result of an illegal search stemming from a failure of the officers to knock and announce their presence.
Once inside, unless they have a separate search warrant, the police are only permitted to conduct a limited “search incident to arrest” of your person and the anything under your control, such as a backpack. They are also permitted to conduct a “protective sweep” of closets and other spaces immediately adjoining the location where an arrest takes place to search for some concealed third-party that could launch an attack on them. Furthermore, if the officers can articulate a “reasonable belief” that a threat to their safety may be posed by a third-party elsewhere in the house, they are permitted to conduct a more extensive search, often of the whole property.
Even when the officers can articulate a reasonable belief that there may be a third-party in the house who poses a threat, they may not exceed the logical scope of such a search. For example, they cannot start searching through pill bottles or jewelry boxes where a person obviously could not hide. Anytime the officers conduct such a search after executing a bench warrant, you should contact a skilled search and seizure attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away. We can work to challenge whether the officers’ belief was truly reasonable and to get any evidence obtained from a search outside the permitted scope excluded from being used against you.
How to Deal with a Philadelphia Bench Warrant to Avoid Being Arrested?
You do not have to wait for the police to show up at your door to deal with a bench warrant. If you contact a skilled Philadelphia bench warrant attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long as soon as you learn such a warrant has been issued against you, we can work to negotiate a deal with the police and court for you to surrender and be brought quickly before the judge who issued the warrant without a formal arrest taking place. Then, we will fight convince the judge to quash the warrant and not impose any additional punishments against you. For example, many times, clients have a reasonable excuse for missing court, such as a medical emergency, and we can make sure their side of the story is thoroughly explained to the judge.
If The Police Enter Your Home to Execute a Bench Warrant, Reach Out to a Skilled Philadelphia Defense Attorney Right Away
After you have been arrested on a bench warrant, you will want to contact a skilled Philadelphia felony defense lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long as soon as possible so we can work to get you out of jail and before the judge quickly, and fight to get the warrant quashed without negative repercussions to your existing case. Then, we can challenge any illegal search of your home that accompanied the execution of the warrant. For a free consultation, call our office today at (215) 302-0171.