The possibility of being exposed to criminal liability is one of the scariest things most people can imagine. Especially for those who have never before dealt with the criminal justice system, the entire process can be confusing and disorienting. It is especially tough trying to navigate such a complex bureaucracy on your own. At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers are here to guide you through the process from the start and fight to bring your case to a successful resolution. Below, we explain how to find out if a bench warrant or an arrest warrant has been issued in your name and what to do when you learn one has.
How Do I Know if There is a Bench Warrant Against Me in Philadelphia?
A bench warrant is a warrant issued by a judge for your arrest when you fail to meet one of your obligations under the court system. The main time a bench warrant is issued by a judge is when a criminal defendant out on bail fails to appear in their courtroom for a scheduled court date. Judges can also issue bench warrants for those who fail to meet the conditions of their probation or parole or who fail to pay fines and fees assessed against them by the court.
Once a bench warrant has been issued against someone, that person can be arrested at any time by the police. Typically, the police will not come to your home or search you out elsewhere to execute a bench warrant. However, these warrants do not expire and anytime you come into contact with a member of law enforcement, even during a routine traffic stop, they will run a warrant check on you. If a warrant exists, you will be arrested.
You can find out if a bench warrant has been issued against you by calling the court in question and making an inquiry. However, it is best that you allow an experienced Philadelphia bench warrant lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long to make these inquiries on your behalf. We can try to negotiate a situation where you can be scheduled to appear before the judge and answer for your warrant without being placed under arrest. In front of the judge, we will fight to demonstrate that you should not have your bail revoked or have any further penalties imposed for your mistake.
How Do I Know if There Are Criminal Charges Against Me in Philadelphia?
Most of the time, if charges have been filed against you, you will be aware. However, there can sometimes be some confusion over whether you were officially charged or what those charges are. An experienced criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can contact the local courts and law enforcement and determine precisely what you have been charged with. Usually, you will learn of criminal charges filed against you in one of the following three ways.
Ticket or Summons
For minor crimes or traffic infractions, such as disorderly conduct or underage drinking, a police officer may simply issue you a ticket or summons detailing your charges and listing a date for you to appear in court to answer for them. This may seem less formal than being arrested, but the consequences can be just as serious if you fail to comply with the instructions on the summons. If you fail to appear for your court date, for example, a bench warrant will likely be issued and you might end up spending time in jail.
Arrest Without a Warrant
In some cases, the police are able to place you under arrest without first applying for a warrant. For example, if a police officer personally witnesses you commit a crime, they can place you under arrest on the spot. If they receive reports of a stabbing by a man in a green coat, and then see you running around in a green coat with a bloody knife, they would likely have probable cause to place you under arrest. In this situation, after your booking you will have a preliminary arraignment before a judge where your official charges will be read to you.
Arrest with a Warrant
The most common way arrests are made is by a police officer applying for an arrest warrant with a judge after conducting a thorough investigation, such as one involving Philadelphia drug trafficking. A police investigation involves collecting evidence and speaking to witnesses. When the investigation reaches a point where the investigating officers believe they have enough evidence to arrest a suspect, they will make an application to a judge explaining why probable cause exists to make the arrest. If the arrest warrant is granted, the officers will likely come to your home or place of work right away to place you under arrest and take you into custody.
Similarly to an arrest without a warrant, you will have a preliminary arraignment shortly after you are booked where the charges against you will be read. This proceeding typically takes place over videoconference from your holding cell, and usually also includes a bail hearing. It is vital that you or your loved one retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you are arrested so we can be prepared to represent you at your bail hearing. We will argue that you should be released with little or no bail while the underlying matter is resolved.
Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys Today About Potential Pending Charges
Most of the time, if you have been charged with a crime, you will know it. However, there are some instances, particularly related to bench warrants, where a warrant may be out for your arrest without you knowing for sure. If you are concerned that you may have warrants out against you, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away. We can help you resolve any outstanding warrants and any pending criminal charges against you. Call us today at (215) 302-0171 for a free consultation.