If you fail to appear on your scheduled court date, the judge presiding over your case could issue what is known as a bench warrant for your arrest. Bench warrants are a very serious matter that can lead to you being arrested and facing further consequences. Many people are curious if they will spend time in jail if they turn themselves in for a warrant. While the answer is usually yes, at least for a short period of time, turning yourself in is still usually your best option. Below, our skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long will walk you through what a bench warrant is and how you should deal with one you might be facing.
How Bench Warrants Work in Philadelphia
Most typically, a bench warrant is issued by a judge when you fail to appear for a scheduled court date on an underlying charge. However, there are some other scenarios in which a judge might order a bench warrant for your arrest. For example, a bench warrant might be issued if the judge learns you are failing to comply with the conditions of your bail, probation, or parole. A bench warrant can also be issued if you are subpoenaed as a witness in a criminal or civil case and you fail to show up as called.
Once a bench warrant has been issued by a judge against you, you are in a serious situation. A bench warrant effectively means that the judge is telling any police officer who comes upon you to place you under arrest. Sometimes the police may seek you out at your residence or place of work to enforce a bench warrant.
Other times, the police will not actively seek you out. However, this does not mean you will not ultimately get caught and be forced to face up to your case. A bench warrant does not expire and will remain active for years after your arrest. Anytime you are stopped for a traffic violation or brought in on another criminal or civil manner, the police will likely run a warrant check on you. If a warrant for your arrest is found, the police will arrest you.
Note that the police who arrest you do not necessarily have to be officers from the jurisdiction in which the bench warrant was issued. Jurisdictions typically share information among one another and through a statewide system that keeps track of all bench warrants issued. If you are arrested, you will be held in the local jail until you can be transferred to the proper jurisdiction. This will typically slow down the processing of your case.
The Best Way to Respond if You Know a Bench Warrant Has Been Issued Against You
While you may be tempted to ignore a warrant and hope it goes away, this is a bad idea, as the longer you wait to act, the more severe the consequences of the warrant are likely to be. The best way to deal with a bench warrant is to turn yourself in as soon as you find out one has been issued against you. You may be frightened by the prospect of turning yourself in because typically, you will spend some time in jail until the judge can address your issue. However, this time is likely to be short.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to contact an experienced attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long to help you through this process. If you turn yourself in without an attorney, you face the risk of spending more time behind bars and of not having an advocate who can tell your side of the story and convince the judge to impose minimal penalties.
What Happens After You Turn Yourself In On a Bench Warrant In Philadelphia
Once you have turned yourself in for your bench warrant in Philadelphia, you will spend some time behind bars until you can come before a judge and explain why you failed to appear. The judge will decide whether to let you go or to continue holding you in jail until the underlying criminal matter is settled. They may also decide to impose bail, or to increase your bail if you are already on it.
Many times, people have valid reasons for failing to appear, such as a medical situation, the wrong date being listed on the summons issued to them, or a family emergency. If you have an attorney arguing for you, they can present your case in the best possible light for you and work to reduce the negative consequences.
One other thing to note is that in Philadelphia if the underlying charge for which you are issued a bench warrant is a misdemeanor or a felony, the judge has the option to charge you with a separate crime of “default in required appearance.” If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor, the charge will be a second-degree misdemeanor and you can face up to 2 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. If the underlying crime is a felony, the charge will be a third-degree felony and penalties can include up to 7 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.
You do not want a default in required appearance charge added to the charges you are already facing. A skilled lawyer can work to convince the judge that your circumstances do not warrant the charging of this separate crime.
Call our Philadelphia Bench Warrant Lawyers Today if You Have Questions or Concerns
At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, we understand that the legal system can often be confusing and disorienting. You may not understand why a bench warrant has been issued against you or how to get a bench warrant lifted in Pennsylvania, and you may be frightened about the possibility of going to jail if you turn yourself in. Our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers can guide you through the process and work to bring your case to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion. Call us today at (215) 302-0171 for a free and confidential consultation.