Typically. when you are charged with a crime or a traffic violation, you will receive a summons to appear in court on a certain date. Sometimes you also may receive a summons for a civil matter or to appear as a witness in a criminal case. Whenever you receive a summons, it is vital that you report to court as ordered or a bench warrant could be issued for your arrest. Below, our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long discuss common issues with bench warrants, including how they work, how to get rid of them, and when and if they expire.
How Philadelphia Bench Warrants Work
A bench warrant is typically issued if you are charged with a crime but not arrested at the time of the crime’s occurrence. For example, if someone reports you assaulted them and the judge finds probable cause to believe this to be true, a bench warrant can be issued for your arrest on this charge. If you have been falsely accused, you may not even know anything about this.
When a warrant is issued against you, this means that the police can arrest you at any time. If you are pulled over for a traffic violation like speeding, the police will likely run a warrant check on you, and if they find any outstanding bench warrants existing under your name, they will arrest you on the spot. Note that local police can arrest you even if the warrant was issued in another county, and you will be transferred to that county for booking.
After you are arrested on a bench warrant and booked in the proper county, you will appear before a judge within 72 hours of your incarceration. The judge will then decide whether to lift the warrant and let you go, to hold you on bail, to increase bail, or if some other penalty is necessary. These penalties and how to get a warrant lifted in Pennsylvania will be discussed in detail further in the article by our criminal defense lawyer.
How Long Until a Philadelphia Bench Warrant Expires
You may be wondering if a bench warrant will eventually “expire” and just go away if you simply ignore it. Unfortunately, the quick and easy answer is that bench warrants do not expire. The warrant will remain outstanding until the subject of the warrant dies or the judge quashes or recalls the warrant. This means that even many years after you failed to appear or respond to a summons, you can be arrested by any police officer for having an active warrant against you. So, if you are hoping that ignoring a warrant for long enough can simply make it disappear, you are out of luck. Typically, it will only make things worse.
Criminal Charges Resulting from Warrants for Failure to Appear
In certain cases, if you are released on bail or without bail pending your trial and you fail to appear at some stage of the trial or a required pre-trial appearance, you can be charged with the separate crime of “default in required appearance.” This crime can only be charged in misdemeanor and felony cases and not for failure to appear on a summary offense such as a minor traffic violation.
If you fail to appear and are charged with default in required appearance in a misdemeanor case, the charge will be a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties for a second-degree misdemeanor default in required appearance charge can include up to 2 years in prison and fines up to $5000. If you fail to appear and are charged with default in required appearance in a felony case, the charge will be a third-degree felony. Penalties for a third-degree felony default in required appearance charge can include up to 7 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
What to Do If You Have a Bench Warrant Issued Against You in Philadelphia
When you find out you have a warrant issued against you for your arrest, you may be tempted to ignore the situation and hope it goes away on its own. However, this is only going to cause you more trouble in the long run. The law will always catch up with you in some way or another and judges will be far less forgiving if you ignore a warrant until you are apprehended by the police than if you turn yourself in as soon as you learn of the warrant’s existence.
You can turn yourself in on your own, simply by showing up to the police station and letting the officers know you want to do so. However, there are certain advantages to having an attorney represent you when you turn yourself in. For one, an experienced Philadelphia bench warrant attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long will know how to get you in front of a judge as quickly as possible. They can also fight for you to be released on your own recognizance or argue for reasonable bail. Finally, they can fight so that you are not charged with anything further such as default in required appearance, and so that this incident does not further hurt your criminal case.
Call Our Experienced Lawyers Today if You Are Concerned About Facing a Bench Warrant in Philadelphia
Bench warrants can take an already serious criminal charge you are facing and make it even more serious. Because they never expire or go away, you could end up facing consequences years down the line if you do not act swiftly to get the warrant resolved as soon as you learn of its existence.
At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our team of trained legal professionals knows how to handle your warrant so that you end up facing the fewest possible negative effects. We will fight to make sure your rights are protected and the judge understands your side of the story of why you did not appear. If you or a loved one is facing an arrest warrant, call us today at (215) 302-0171 to schedule a free consultation.