If you do not appear in court, you will receive a bench warrant. This means that if you are stopped for a traffic ticket or have another arrest, the bench warrant will pop up and you will get arrested for the bench warrant. You can potentially remain in custody until such time that you have a bench warrant hearing and new bail is set in your case. You could remain in custody for several days until you are eventually released from custody. Bench warrants in Philadelphia have changed though. We now see that bench warrants in Philadelphia can result in up to ten days of contempt in jail.
To avoid this entire predicament, you can turn yourself in to the Criminal Justice Center at 1301 Filbert Street at 7:30 – 8:00 a.m. any weekday after about 7 calendar days have passed after the bench warrant was issued. Once you turn yourself in you will be temporarily taken into custody and walked to a courtroom where a judge will determine to release you, increase your bail, or incarcerate you for ten days or less. By turning yourself in, the court system looks at you in a much more favorable way, like amnesty, because you voluntarily walked in to fix the problem as opposed to you getting re-arrested by the police.
Clients often ask if there is a chance that they will get locked up when they go and get the warrant lifted. People get locked up very rarely when they go to turn themselves in, however it does happen. Some example are when the warrant is very old. In this case, the system may just increase the bail. In this scenario I advise people to bring some cash with them to court, or to have a friend or family member go with them to court and be prepared to pay a new bail in the case. However, recently, people have been getting locked up much more often on their Bench Warrants in Philadelphia.
The other scenario is when the type of bench warrant that was placed on them was called a judge only bench warrant. A judge only bench warrant means that the judge who issued the bench warrant is the only person who can lift the bench warrant. A judge only bench warrant is usually only issued when a person fails to appear for their felony trial date. If you get a judge only bench warrant, you usually will get locked up when you go to turn yourself in.
Often times if a person has a potentially bad situation with a bench warrant or a judge only bench warrant, appearing with an attorney can greatly lessen the blow of getting the warrant lifted.