It can be extremely scary to find out that a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest, especially if this was due to confusion on your part and not deliberately skipping out on a court date. You might not know what to do next when you find out the warrant exists. You also might have been taken into custody by an officer and are wondering what your rights are as this process plays out. Below, the experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long will help you understand when a bench warrant is issued, what it is, and how to deal with it.
What Is a Philadelphia Bench Warrant
A bench warrant is issued by a judge directing the police to arrest you. Usually, a judge will issue such a warrant when you are a defendant and you do not appear for court on your assigned date. Sometimes, bench warrants can also be issued for witnesses who failed to appear or failed to respond to a subpoena.
What Happens if a Bench Warrant Is Issued Against Me in Philadelphia
Bench warrants are serious business. If a bench warrant has been issued against you, this means that the police can arrest you at any time and bring you into custody. Oftentimes, these arrests will occur when you are pulled over for a minor traffic matter. For example, if you make an illegal U-turn and an officer pulls you over, while the officer is checking your information and writing a ticket, they will also conduct a warrant search.
This warrant search will show all of the warrants against you throughout the state, not just in the local jurisdiction. In addition, many states coordinate their records so out-of-state arrest warrants may also show up. Even if the arrest warrant issued is for a court outside of the police officer’s jurisdiction, the officer can arrest you and hold you in the local jail until you can be transferred to the proper jurisdiction.
You may be tempted to think you can simply outrun a bench warrant. However, these warrants do not come with some sort of time limit on their enforceability. They never expire and, even if a bench warrant was issued decades ago, you can still be apprehended on it and made to appear before a judge for your past crimes.
Being Charged with a Separate Crime for Failing to Appear in Philadelphia
Sometimes, if you fail to appear, a bench warrant might only be the beginning of your worries. In Pennsylvania, if you are released on bail and fail to show up for a required court appearance, the judge will often have the option of charging you with the separate crime of “default in required appearance.” If your bench warrant is regarding a summary offense like most traffic violations, then this charge cannot apply. However, for failures to appear on misdemeanor or felony matters, the judge may, within their discretion, charge you with this crime in addition to issuing a bench warrant.
For failures to appear on a misdemeanor case, the separate crime of default in required appearance will be charged as a misdemeanor of the second degree. This can come with penalties of up to 2 years in jail and fines up to $5000. For failures to appear on a felony case, a default in required appearance charge is a felony of the third degree. For such a felony, you can face penalties including up to 7 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
What You Should Do if You Find Out There is a Bench Warrant Issued Against You
As noted above, it is a bad idea to ignore a bench warrant, as it will not expire and can only lead to more serious issues if not taken care of in a timely manner. The best thing that you can do is turn yourself in to the police and face the issue head-on. However, before turning yourself in, it is best to call an experienced attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long for help.
Our attorneys can help get you in front of a judge quickly so that you do not spend many hours or days in jail waiting for a chance to explain your failure to appear. Once you are before the judge, an attorney can advocate on your behalf. You may have a reasonable excuse for missing your court appearance. For example, the date may have been written wrong on your summons, or you may have marked the wrong date on your calendar by mistake. Perhaps you had a medical emergency and were in the hospital at the time you were supposed to be in court.
Whatever the case, our attorneys know how to spin your story so that the judge does not keep you locked up or impose or increase bail. They can fight to make sure that you are not given an additional default in required appearance charge. In addition, you are going to need a skilled attorney to help you fight the underlying charges that led to you being given a court date in the first place. Especially if these charges are serious, you are going to want to retain a lawyer as early in the process as possible.
Call Our Knowledgeable Philadelphia Bench Warrant Attorneys Today
Bench warrants are a serious matter and can become more serious if you neglect them. Failing to appear for court will not endear you to a judge who is already looking at a case where you have been charged with other crimes. If you do not handle a bench warrant properly, it could greatly hurt your underlying case as well as lead to additional charges.
At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our team knows how to advise you on the best course of action for responding to a bench warrant or getting a bench warrant lifted in Philadelphia. We will help the judge understand your side of the story and to make and advocate for you to face the most minimal possible repercussions. If you are concerned about dealing with a bench warrant, call us today at (215) 302-0171 for a free consultation.