An arrest warrant might be issued if you are implicated in a crime, while bench warrants may be issued if you fail to appear in court. Both these warrants may result in your arrest, and you can speak to an attorney about how to get them lifted.
Warrants can be issued in various circumstances, whether you are involved in a criminal or civil case. If you are required to appear in court for a case, it is best to play it safe and promptly arrive for your case instead of risking the possibility of a bench warrant being issued. Bench warrants can be lifted by rescheduling your court appearance and apologizing to the court. Arrest warrants are not usually lifted unless the police find new evidence proving you are not the criminal perpetrator. If all else fails, you might have to turn yourself in to clear a warrant, but you should only do this under the guidance of a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
You should consult with our Philadelphia bench warrant lawyers if there is a warrant out for your arrest. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.
What is a Bench Warrant in Pennsylvania?
A bench warrant is a court order issued by a judge that allows any law enforcement officer you encounter to arrest you on sight. A bench warrant is issued because an individual failed to make a scheduled court appearance or defied a previous court order.
Bench warrants are usually issued against criminal defendants for a variety of reasons. For example, if a defendant committed a probation violation, the judge in their case may issue a warrant for their arrest. However, it is also possible for bench warrants to be issued in civil cases. For example, if you were a material witness in a civil claim and were subpoenaed to testify, the court may issue a warrant to force you to make an appearance.
It is also important to note that there are two types of bench warrants: normal bench warrants and judge-only bench warrants. A normal bench warrant is handled by the judge assigned to bench warrant court on a particular day. Judge-only bench warrants can only be handled by the judge that issued them.
If you are arrested for a bench warrant in Pennsylvania, law enforcement can hold you for up to 72 hours to schedule a hearing for your warrant. If you are unfortunate enough to be arrested on a weekend, your bench warrant hearing will be scheduled for the next business day.
You can check if you have a bench warrant by searching Pennsylvania’s public court docket sheets. However, if you missed a court date in a criminal case, it is almost guaranteed that there is a bench warrant for your arrest.
You should speak with our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers to learn more about how bench warrants work.
The Difference Between Arrest and Bench Warrants in Pennsylvania
Bench warrants are often confused with standard arrest warrants because both are issued for a person’s arrest. However, the reasons behind each warrant and how they are issued are very different. As such, they can be lifted under different circumstances. Our Pennsylvania bench warrant lawyers can help you figure out the best way to handle your case and hopefully lift your warrants.
A bench warrant, as discussed earlier, is handed down directly from a judge. Many bench warrants are issued because someone failed to show up for a court hearing. They can also be issued if someone defied a court order, such as a restraining or no-contact order. An arrest warrant is different because it originates with law enforcement, and the judge who signs the final warrant is meant to be an impartial decider.
Arrest warrants, unlike bench warrants, must be based on sufficient probable cause that the suspect has committed a crime. Law enforcement often gathers probable cause during a criminal investigation, and the subject of the warrant often does not know about it until they are arrested. Bench warrants, on the other hand, do not usually involve new crimes but rather a failure to follow procedures.
Another key difference is how these warrants are executed. Typical arrest warrants issued for criminal suspects are often executed as soon as possible. The police often go to great lengths to track down suspects and arrest them, especially if they believe the suspect is dangerous. Bench warrants, however, are in no rush to be executed. In fact, most bench warrants are executed only if the police happen upon the defendant, like in a routine traffic stop. As such, bench warrants may linger for years before being executed, and defendants might have long forgotten why the bench warrant was issued in the first place.
How to Get a Bench Warrant Dismissed in Pennsylvania
Depending on the circumstances of your case, your best option to get your bench warrant dropped is to turn yourself in to law enforcement at the Criminal Justice Center. However, before you turn yourself in, you should contact an experienced attorney. An attorney may be able to arrange a way to schedule a hearing without having to turn yourself in. Once you appear for your hearing, your attorney can help you avoid situations that may harm your case if you are a criminal defendant.
The judge who handles your case will lift your bench warrant once you appear for a hearing. However, the judge may also impose a penalty for failing to appear in court. For example, if the bench warrant judge decides to hold you in contempt for failing to appear for your drug possession case, you can be punished with a jail sentence of up to six months and receive a criminal fine. If the judge determines that you are a flight risk and you will not appear for your case, they may revoke or increase your bail.
The bench warrant judge also has the power to forfeit your bail. In Pennsylvania, the defendant must pay 10% of their bail to be released. If you violated your bail conditions by failing to appear in court, you might have to pay the remainder of the bail amount. For example, if your bail was set at $100,000, and you paid $10,000, you may have to pay the additional $90,000 if your bail was forfeited.
The consequences for failing to appear in court may be severe. This is why it is important to make all required court appearances.
Can I Get a Bench or Arrest Warrant Lifted Without Being Arrested in Pennsylvania?
Getting an arrest warrant lifted or cleared is not the same as lifting a bench warrant. Bench warrants are often issued for relatively minor issues, like missing a court hearing or failing to pay a fine. Arrest warrants are issued for crimes, and the police tend to act on them much faster. It is often difficult to clear a standard arrest warrant because most defendants are unaware of the warrant until it is too late. Our Pennsylvania bench warrant attorneys can help you figure out the best way to approach your warrant.
One method is to find evidence that you are not the suspect the police should be looking for. Cases of mistaken identity are not uncommon in the criminal justice system. The police often misinterpret evidence and end up arresting the wrong person. If you know there is a warrant out for your arrest in relation to an alleged crime, but you have an alibi or other exonerating evidence, we can pass this information along to law enforcement and hopefully get the warrant lifted. The police have no interest in arresting people they know are not guilty.
Unfortunately, exonerating evidence is not always available. As a last resort, you can speak with an attorney and figure out how to turn yourself in to the police. Turning yourself in might help you avoid a public and humiliating arrest and show the police you are willing to cooperate. Once you are in police custody, our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers can help you work with law enforcement to prove that you are not the person they are looking for. Alternatively, we can help you fight the charges and clear your name if you end up being charged.
What Happens if I Ignore an Arrest or Bench Warrant in Pennsylvania?
Depending on your situation and why the bench or arrest warrant was issued, it might be some time before the police come knocking on your door. People sometimes think they can ignore or outrun a warrant as long as they steer clear of the police, but this is not a good idea. The warrant will catch up to you eventually, and there might be consequences for trying to run. Our Bucks County criminal defense attorneys can help you deal with old warrants and avoid further penalties or complications.
Bench warrants have a habit of lingering on for a long time because the police do not usually execute these warrants until they next encounter the defendant, often at a traffic stop. If the police have no reason to encounter the defendant, it is unlikely the warrant will be executed any time soon. There have been numerous cases of people getting pulled over for traffic violations only for the police officer and the driver to realize there is a years-old bench warrant out for the driver’s arrest.
Outrunning or ignoring a warrant is not advisable, as it will catch up with you eventually. By that time, evidence that might help you might be long gone, and the judge might be displeased that you avoided arrest for so long. Trying to outrun a standard arrest warrant is especially risky as you might face charges for things like evading arrest. Basically, your case might be much more difficult. If you are aware of an old warrant you might have forgotten about, our legal team can help you handle it.
Our Philadelphia Bench Warrant Lawyer Can Help You Get Your Warrant Lifted in Pennsylvania
If you were arrested on a bench warrant in a criminal case, you should contact an experienced Montgomery County criminal defense attorney today. Having a bench warrant issued for your arrest can be a worrying ordeal, but attorney Lloyd Long is here to represent you. For a free case review, call the Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.