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Home 9 Criminal Defense 9 What Does It Mean to Have a Bench Warrant in PA?

What Does It Mean to Have a Bench Warrant in PA?

police officer leading someone away in handcuffs

Imagine a scenario where you were issued a traffic ticket in Pennsylvania a few months ago. You had every intention of dealing with it, but somehow, it slipped your mind. The court date came and went without your attendance. Unbeknownst to you, the judge issued a bench warrant for your arrest due to your failure to appear in court. Now, you’re going about your everyday activities with a looming threat of arrest hanging over your head. This situation illustrates what it means to have a bench warrant in PA.


  • A bench warrant in PA is a court order from the judge’s bench to arrest a person for not appearing in court or violating a court order.
  • There are several ways to check if you have a bench warrant: visiting the website of the local court where the warrant might have been issued, your county sheriff’s department’s online listings of outstanding warrants, and calling your local courthouse directly.
  • To resolve a bench warrant in PA, turning oneself into court and addressing the underlying issue is necessary, with help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
  • An arrest warrant and a bench warrant differ in that an arrest warrant is typically issued when law enforcement has probable cause to believe someone committed a crime.

As you go about your daily routines, you might not even realize that there’s a pending bench warrant until you come across law enforcement in an unrelated situation. One day, you get pulled over for a routine traffic stop, or maybe a law enforcement officer shows up at your home because a neighbor complains about loud music.

The police officer does the usual ID check, and to your surprise, the bench warrant shows up. Next thing you know, you’re getting handcuffed and taken into police custody, caught off guard by that forgotten traffic ticket that has now turned into an arrest. This arrest can have some serious consequences, affecting your job, finances, and personal life.

In this blog post, we will discuss what is a bench warrant in PA, how they work, and what you can do about them in Pennsylvania. Additionally, we’ll discuss the types of crimes that can result in a bench warrant for your arrest and how to find out if you have one.

What Is a Bench Warrant in PA?

Bench warrants in Pennsylvania signify that a judge has ordered law enforcement officials to arrest you due to you not showing up to your scheduled court appearance or failure to comply with a court order. The term “bench” refers to the judge’s bench in a courtroom, and the warrant is issued straight from the judge’s bench to enforce their orders and make sure that the criminal court system stays functioning correctly.

If you have a bench warrant in Pennsylvania, you are effectively considered a fugitive, and you can be arrested at any time or place. The bench warrant issued remains in effect until you are taken into custody, the judge recalls the warrant, or the issue that led to the warrant is resolved.

How Serious Is a Bench Warrant in PA?

An outstanding bench warrant in your name is a serious matter that should not be underestimated. It signifies a direct court order, and any violation of this order is considered a criminal case. If a bench warrant is issued under your name, you are effectively regarded as a fugitive. Ignoring a bench warrant can result in immediate arrest and further legal complications.

In addition to adding your name to a statewide database, it also allows the police the authority to arrest you at any time or place and take you into custody immediately. This event can disrupt both your personal and professional life, as you may be arrested at your workplace, residence, or even during routine traffic stops.

Additionally, having a bench warrant can impact your eligibility for making cash bail in future cases, which makes it challenging to secure release after an arrest. It is also important to quickly address a bench warrant with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to avoid these severe consequences.

How Can I Check If I Have A Bench Warrant in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, there are several ways to check if you have a bench warrant. One of the simplest ways is to visit the website of the local court where the warrant might have been issued, as many courts maintain an online database of active warrants that the public can access.

Similarly, your county sheriff’s department may have online listings of outstanding bench warrants. If these resources are not available, you can also call your local courthouse or sheriff’s office directly to ask about any potential warrants.

Remember, when doing this, it’s essential to be cautious. Providing your personal information might lead to your arrest if there is an active warrant in your name. If you believe there might be a warrant for your arrest, it’s advisable to seek legal counsel to guide you through the process safely and ensure that your rights are protected.

The safest way to check for a bench warrant is to work with a criminal attorney who can perform this check on your behalf. The experienced attorney can handle the warrant appropriately and arrange a court date for its resolution or a preliminary hearing while making sure there is minimal impact on you.

How Do I Resolve a Bench Warrant in PA?

In Pennsylvania, resolving bench warrants involves turning oneself into the court and addressing the underlying issue that led to the warrant being issued. It’s crucial to seek the help of a skilled criminal attorney for this process. They can help prepare you for what to expect and may be able to arrange a court appearance date and time to minimize the chances of spending time in jail.

On the date of your scheduled hearing, be prepared to explain to the judge why you failed to appear in court initially. If your reason is legitimate, like a medical emergency, for instance, the court may be more lenient. However, if you forgot or chose not to appear in court, the judge might impose penalties like jail time, fines, or probation.

Can a Bench Warrant Be Lifted Without Going to Jail?

handcuffs laid over arrest warrant documents

Yes, bench warrants in Pennsylvania can be lifted without you going to jail. You will need to hire an attorney who has experience in defending criminal charges. The attorney can schedule a court date, known as a “motion to recall the bench warrant hearing,” where they will present compelling reasons and, in some cases, produce documents for the judge to consider having the bench warrant lifted.

These reasons could include a solid explanation for the failure to appear in court that led to the bench warrants or proof that you have been compliant with all other court orders. Based on the judge’s discretion, they may decide to recall or lift the warrant, allowing you to avoid jail time. However, this doesn’t mean that the criminal case leading to the warrant’s issuance has been resolved, so you must still address this matter in court.

What Is the Process for a Judge to Issue a Bench Warrant in Pennsylvania?

For Pennsylvania bench warrants, the process for a judge to issue one begins when you fail to appear for a scheduled court hearing or fail to comply with a court order. The court will typically send out a notice of the failure to appear on your court hearing date or non-compliance before a bench warrant is considered. If there is no response or corrective action taken after receiving the actual notice, it is up to the judge whether to issue you a bench warrant.

Once the bench warrant is issued, it is entered into a statewide database, and law enforcement officials are alerted to be on the lookout. The warrant can remain active for years until you are apprehended or take action to resolve the issue.

Are Arrest Warrants and Bench Warrants the Same in PA?

No, arrest warrants and bench warrants are not the same in Pennsylvania. While they are both types of warrants issued by the court that can result in your arrest and criminal cases, they serve different purposes and are issued under different circumstances.

An arrest warrant is typically issued when law enforcement has probable cause or enough evidence to believe that you have committed a crime. This probable cause is usually presented to a judge in the form of a sworn statement, and if the judge agrees, they will issue an arrest warrant. The arrest warrant gives law enforcement the authority to arrest you at any location and at any time, similar to a bench warrant.

For a Criminal Defense Lawyer Who’s Always on Your Side, Choose Marinaro Law Firm

When it comes to resolving your bench warrant in PA, your time limit to get it done as the defendant is limited. You need a legal team that is dedicated to fighting for your rights, so turn to our experts at Marinaro Law Firm. We’re here to make sure that if the judge is to issue a bench warrant in your name, you’re legally protected with the least amount of impact on your future. Call us to schedule a legal consultation today!


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