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What is the Difference between a Warrant and a Bench Warrant in Philadelphia?

The word warrant is used a lot in criminal proceedings, as well as in TV shows and movies involving lawyers or the police. However, most people would probably not be able to tell you there are different types of warrants, each involving unique rules and each used in a unique way. Aside from bench warrants, the two major types of warrants that come up in the context of the criminal justice system are arrest warrants and search warrants. Below, our experienced Philadelphia criminal lawyer explains the differences between these types of warrants and what you should do in response to each one.

Bench Warrants in Philadelphia

The first kind of warrant that can be issued is what is known as a bench warrant. Unlike arrest warrants and search warrants, where police apply for the warrant, bench warrants are issued by the judge at their own prerogative. The main reason that a bench warrant is issued is if you fail to appear at a criminal proceeding where your appearance is required. However, judges can also issue these warrants if you fail to pay court fines and fees on time, fail to make child support payments, or do not show up for court when subpoenaed as a witness, among other situations.

Once a bench warrant has been issued against you, the police can arrest you at any time. However, they are unlikely to come seek you out for arrest. Instead, the time you will be most likely arrested on a bench warrant is during a routine traffic stop when the officer conducts a warrant search in your name. If one appears, he will place you under arrest and get you transferred to the proper jurisdiction. Bench warrants never expire, so you can be arrested many years after yours is issued. Furthermore, most counties and states share warrant information, so it is possible that you can be picked up on a warrant even outside the state or county where it was issued.

The best way to deal with bench warrants is to handle them before you get arrested. However, it is not always a good idea to turn yourself in. Instead, you should reach out to an experienced Philadelphia bench warrant attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. We can contact the court and the prosecutor’s office and try to negotiate a situation where you can surrender yourself and answer for the warrant without being placed under arrest. Then, we can work to convince the judge to quash the warrant without imposing further penalties or revoking bail.

Arrest Warrants in Philadelphia

An arrest warrant is a warrant that the police apply for when they believe they have enough evidence to arrest someone for a crime. While some arrests can occur without a warrant if the officer has probable cause, such as in a case where the officer personally sees a crime like vandalism being committed, most arrests require a warrant issued by a judge. If the judge reviews the officers’ application and believes probable cause exists, they will issue an arrest warrant for the individual on the charges described.

A big difference between a bench warrant is an arrest warrant is that police will usually act immediately on an arrest warrant by coming to your home, place of work, or wherever you are to place you under arrest. They will not wait around until you get pulled over on a traffic violation. As soon as you are arrested, you or a loved one should reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. Our Philadelphia bail hearing attorneys can work to get you quickly released from custody and then turn to dealing with getting the underlying charges downgraded or dismissed.

Search Warrants in Philadelphia

Much like with an arrest warrant, the police make an application for a search warrant to a judge, who can grant or deny it. The officers will usually apply for a search warrant when they believe that there is evidence in the defendant’s home, place of business, or somewhere else under the defendant’s control, like your car in DUI cases. In certain exigent circumstances, the police can search your private property without a warrant, but most of the time, they cannot conduct a warrantless search unless you consent. If officers show up to your home or business without a warrant and ask for your consent to search, you should not consent and instead should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away.

If the police show up with a search warrant, you will have to allow them to search your home or whatever property under your control the warrant allows them to search. However, you should still contact an attorney right away, as we will want to examine the warrant to make sure it has been properly issued. Furthermore, the judge typically issues the warrant for a limited scope of time and area, but sometimes the police will exceed this scope and search in places not covered by the warrant. In addition, the police cannot, for example, look in a small jewelry box if the item they are searching for is a large gun. Our lawyers will file a motion to bar any evidence obtained from an illegal or overbroad search from being used against you in a criminal case.

If You Are Dealing with a Warrant, Call Our Skilled Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

All three different types of warrants, bench warrants, arrest warrants, and search warrants, have important differences and each requires its own type of response. At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys have years of experience helping our clients successfully deal with all of these warrants. If the matter results in criminal charges, we will leave no stone unturned fighting to get those charges downgraded or dismissed and to bring your case to the best possible resolution. For a free consultation, call our firm today at (215) 302-0171.