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What Should You Do if You Have a Warrant Out for Your Arrest in Pennsylvania?

The typical scenario in which this arises is that you will be notified by the police that there is a warrant out for your arrest.  In this situation, your next move is crucial – sit and wait, and the warrant will remain active, and in the event you are stopped in a vehicle for any sort of vehicle code violation, you will be arrested right there and then.  On the other hand, turn yourself in on the warrant, and you might be going straight to jail.  

This blog will focus on what steps you need to take when you learn that there is a warrant out for your arrest so that the warrant can be properly lifted and you can be released without having to go into custody.  

Do NOT Speak with the Police Until You Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney

The number one mistake that people make is calling the police right away to address the warrant.  Why?  Because this now gives the police an opportunity to question you, and any statements you make about the arrest warrant can be used against you in court.  Instead, you want to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney and advise him or her about your situation.  

Explain All of the Facts to Your Attorney

In speaking with a criminal defense attorney, you want to make sure that you lay everything out on the table explaining why this warrant might exist.  The number one mistake clients make at this step is not being forthcoming with their attorney.  Once the attorney knows all of the facts surrounding the warrant, they will be able to make a decision on what the next step should be in order to get the warrant lifted. 

Take Action Immediately

The worst thing you can do is sit and wait.  Once you’ve realized that an arrest warrant exists and you’ve spoken to an attorney, you want to make sure that the warrant is lifted immediately.  If this is not addressed, then the warrant will remain active in what is known as the National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”).  How does this work?  Let’s say, for example, that you ignore the warrant and you travel out of state and while there you get stopped in a vehicle for a traffic violation.  The officer has the ability to look at NCIC to see if there are any active arrest warrants that exists, and if the officer sees that there is in fact an active warrant, you will be taken into police custody and sent to jail immediately until a court date is scheduled.  This can take months!  In order to avoid this situation, you want to take action immediately with your attorney.

How to Get the Warrant Lifted

In order to lift the warrant, you will have to go through what is called a “preliminary arraignment,” or what is commonly known as a “bail hearing.”  This is your first court appearance and it is also the first time that you will be facing a judge.  It is crucial that you have an attorney at this stage because this is the stage where a judge will decide if you should be sent to prison pending your trial or released on the street.  This process is called setting bail on your case.  

How to get Bail on Your Case

Bail is determined by looking at two (2) factors: (1) Risk of flight, and (2) Potential danger to the community.  

In looking at the first factor – risk of flight – a judge is going to look to what ties you have here in the community (Where are you from? Do you own real estate in the area? Do you have family in the area?).  A judge is also going to look to the likelihood of whether you will appear at all of your court appearances throughout the case should you be released on the street.  In deciding this factor, the judge will look to how you addressed the arrest warrant– did you voluntarily surrender yourself on the warrant, or were you picked up off the street by the police on the warrant?  It is more likely that if you followed the proper steps and turned yourself in on the warrant, a judge will view this as a voluntary surrender, rather than a forceful one.  The judge will also look to any previous cases you had in the criminal justice system in which you may have failed to appear at a court appearance.  The more failures to appear that you have on your record, the more likely it is that a judge will see a pattern or course of conduct and ultimately infer that it is unlikely that you will appear for your court appearances in this case if you were released on the street.

Turning to the second factor – potential danger to the community – a judge is going to look to whether you have a past criminal history and also the nature of the charges for which the arrest warrant was filed.  First, in looking at your criminal history (should one exist), the judge will consider whether you have any prior violent offenses.  For example, does your criminal history include cases involving guns, robbery, and assault, or does your criminal history include cases involving minor drug possession, petty theft or driving under the influence?  Second, the judge will look to what the arrest warrant in this case is for.  That is, does this arrest warrant involve something that is violent in nature or is it something that involves something very minor like a simple drug possession offense that would pose no grave danger to the public if you were released on the street.

Conclusion

Getting an arrest warrant lifted is a very tricky and scary process.  It involves a lot of strategical decision-making and requires that you have an experienced, well-known attorney who can advocate zealously on your behalf. 

If you or a loved one have an active arrest warrant, contact us immediately at (215) 639-5297 for a FREE consultation.  We will standby you during every step of the way until the warrant is properly lifted! 

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