Being charged with a crime and going through the criminal justice system can be an exhausting and confusing process. You will have to keep up with court dates, probation appointments, and other interruptions to your life. As much of a hassle as this can be, if you fail to meet your obligations under the criminal justice system you could end up in even more trouble than you already are. If you miss a court appearance or fail to meet some other obligation, a judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Many folks wonder if these types of warrants come with an expiration date. Below, our experienced Philadelphia bench warrant attorneys explain what bench warrants are and what you should do if you find out one has been issued against you.
What is a Philadelphia Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest issued by a judge in response to you failing to meet one of your obligations under the criminal justice system. For example, a judge will commonly issue a bench warrant to a criminal defendant out on bail who fails to show up to their court date as required. Judges can issue bench warrants for a variety of other reasons as well, including for witnesses who fail to show up when subpoenaed, or to recent convicts in violation of their repayment schedule for fees and fines or otherwise in violation of their probation or parole.
Once a judge issues a bench warrant, law enforcement throughout the state, and often throughout the whole country, will have this information in their systems. While police usually do not enforce bench warrants by showing up at your house, they will run a warrant check if they write you a citation for something like public intoxication, or pull you over for a minor traffic violation. If the check shows any outstanding warrants in your name, the officer will arrest you. If the warrant is for a different jurisdiction, you will be transferred there so you can go before the proper judge.
How Long Do I Have to Turn Myself in on a Philadelphia Bench Warrant?
Bench warrants do not come with an expiration date. This means that, even years and years after one is issued, it may still show up in the system if you are pulled over, and you can still be arrested on it. No one wants to live with the constant threat of arrest hanging over their head. This is why the best way to deal with a bench warrant is to get out ahead of the situation by working to remedy the warrant before it results in your arrest.
Rather than turn yourself in directly, it is best that you call an experienced Philadelphia bench warrant lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. We can get in contact with the local police and the court staff where the warrant was issued and try to negotiate a deal where you can appear in court the next day or remedy whatever probation violation you committed in exchange for the warrant being quashed. We will do everything in our power to get the situation resolved without you being arrested or accruing further penalties.
The sooner you work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the better it will be for your case. If you have already been arrested on the warrant, it is still important that you contact a lawyer to appear with you before the judge and tell your side of the story. There are often very legitimate reasons people miss court appearances, such as having a family emergency, and we can to make sure you are not penalized for events beyond your control.
Penalties for Bench Warrants in Philadelphia
If you do not have a skilled lawyer arguing for you at your hearing, you increase the probability of facing potentially severe penalties as a result of the bench warrant. The judge can choose to revoke your bail for your Philadelphia drug possession case and keep you detained until the case is resolved. The judge can also order fines, fees, and even short jail stints.
The worst-case scenario you could face is being charged with the separate crime of “default in required appearance” if you fail to show up for a required court date and a bench warrant is issued. This charge would be tacked on to the other charges you were already facing. It came come with severe fines and long jail sentences of its own, including up to 7 years in prison for failing to appear on a felony case.
This crime is rarely charged unless the prosecutor believes the defendant is engaged in willful, continuous defiance of the court. A skilled criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can work to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to avoid you being charged with this crime. It is typical that the sooner you deal with the bench warrant, the better chance you have of getting off without facing a secondary criminal charge.
If You Are Concerned About a Bench Warrant, Contact Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
Bench warrants do not expire. As such, ignoring them is a never a good idea as they will come back to bite you eventually. The best way to deal with a bench warrant is to contact an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. If you have not yet been arrested, our lawyers can negotiate your surrender to the authorities. We can work to make it so you do not have to spend any time in custody or face severe penalties. If you have been arrested, we can work to get you before a judge and get the matter resolved as quickly as possible so that you can get out of custody. For a free consultation, call us today at (215) 302-0171.