The criminal justice system can be confusing to navigate, especially for individuals who have no prior experience with this process. People who genuinely are trying their best to comply with the instructions they have been given can end up flouting court orders or missing required appearances due to unavoidable life events or miscommunications. In cases where bench warrants are issued against them by a judge, they can end up facing serious consequences. Below, our experienced Philadelphia bench warrant lawyers at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long explain what bench warrants are, how to find out if one has been issued against you, and how we can help you get the warrant quashed without facing further penalties.
What is a Philadelphia Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest that is issued by a judge when you fail to comply with one of your obligations under the criminal court system. Unlike an arrest warrant, which is initiated by an application from the police, a bench warrant is issued by a judge on their own, without any application necessary. The most common reason for a judge to issue a bench warrant is if you fail to show up to one of your required court appearances as scheduled. However, the judge can also issue such a warrant if you fail to pay child support or fines and fees assessed by the court, or fail to appear as a witness when subpoenaed, among other reasons.
Once a bench warrant has been issued against you, the police can arrest you anywhere and anytime. However, the police do not usually actively seek you out to enforce bench warrants like they do with arrest warrants. Instead, the warrant will remain active until you come into contact with the police in some way, usually during a routine stop for a traffic violation in Philadelphia, where the officer will check for warrants pending against you. If they find one, you will be placed under arrest and transferred to the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued. These warrants do not expire and the system where they are entered is shared between counties and states.
How Do I Find Out If I Have a Bench Warrant in Philadelphia?
If you believe a bench warrant may have been issued against you, you can reach out to the local police or court to confirm. However, it is best that you reach out to an experienced Philadelphia bench warrant attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long who can contact the authorities on your behalf. We can try to negotiate a deal where you turn yourself in and appear before the judge to resolve the warrant without having to spend any time in jail.
Potential Consequences of a Philadelphia Bench Warrant
After being arrested on a bench warrant violation, you will typically be held in jail until an appearance before the judge can be scheduled. As noted above, our skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can work to negotiate your surrender in exchange for a formal arrest not occurring. In either case, there will then be a hearing before a judge, usually the same one who issued the warrant, who will decide whether to simply quash the warrant and allow the case to proceed or if penalties will be imposed.
Potential penalties can include a short jail sentence, fines and fees, and the revocation of your bail. The judge may also add new conditions to your bail such as checking in with the court every few days to make sure you are aware of upcoming obligations and appearances.
In some cases, particularly where your actions seem to the judge to have been deliberately undertaken in order to, the judge will choose to charge you with a separate crime known as “default in required appearance.” This charge only applies to situations where the bench warrant was issued in response to you missing a court appearance, and it rarely charged even in those matters. If this charge is issued against you, however, and your underlying charge was a misdemeanor, you could face penalties including up to 2 years in prison and up to $5000 in fines. If the underlying charge was a felony, penalties can include up to $15,000 in fines and up to 7 years in jail.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me Deal with a Bench Warrant in Philadelphia?
As previously mentioned, your lawyer will first focus on getting ahead of the matter by negotiating a deal for your to voluntarily surrender yourself. When you do this, instead of being brought in after a traffic stop, the judge will often appreciate the fact that you took initiative to correct the matter. The quicker after the warrant is issued you contact us, the better chance one of our skilled bench warrant attorneys like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long has of getting you off without incurring any of the most serious potential penalties.
Many times, you have a reasonable excuse for missing a court date or a payment, such as a medical emergency or having been given the wrong information by court staff. We can make sure the judge hears your side of the story and will fight to get the warrant quashed without your bail being revoked or any other serious penalties being imposed. Then, if needed, we can help you deal with underlying charge, such as assault or robbery, that led to the bench warrant being issued in the first place.
If You Are Concerned That a Bench Warrant May Have Been Issued Against You, Contact Our Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Bench warrants can lead to serious consequences if you try to ignore them and pretend that they do not exist. However, if you get on top of things quickly by retaining an experienced Philadelphia bench warrant attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, we can find out if any warrants exist and, if they do, can work to get the warrant quashed without any further penalties being assessed. For a free consultation, call our firm today at (215) 302-0171.