More than 40 million people visit the Philadelphia region each year and spend more than $7 billion. If you are a visitor to Philadelphia and are arrested for a crime, you are expected to follow the local criminal procedure. This is based on rules of legal jurisdiction that require criminal matters to be prosecuted in the location where the alleged offense was committed. This may potentially pose some logistical problems, particularly if your home is far away.
Understanding the Philadelphia Courts
Those from another state will not be able to have their legal proceedings transferred to a court that is closer and more convenient for them. In 2017, the Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court handled more than 20,000 criminal cases and more than 92,000 civil matters. The court's dockets are often filled with more cases than the staff can handle; therefore, do not expect that they will be willing to be overly responsive in accommodating you.
The Philadelphia Municipal Court is the other venue that hears criminal matters. Although the Municipal Court conducts preliminary hearings in felony cases, any adult criminal cases where the maximum sentence is five years or more are transferred to the Common Pleas Court.
Importance of Promptly Seeking Local Representation
Those who have been arrested for a crime in Philadelphia during a visit are strongly encouraged to consult with a local attorney. Having a defense attorney that is familiar with navigating these local court venues is critical. You will be able to rely on them to assist with scheduling and potentially to appear on your behalf in some proceedings. Failing to appear for a court date will result in a warrant being issued and will further worsen your already difficult situation.
Pennsylvania Failure to Appear Law
Failing or refusing to appear at a hearing or conference ordered by the court will typically result in a bench warrant being issued. The court will confirm that you did receive “actual notice” that your appearance was required. The warrant is then submitted to a database and the defendant is subject to arrest statewide.
If a bench warrant is issued, the defendant will be required to appear before the court. The defendant will remain in jail custody awaiting the hearing. Bench warrant hearings in Philadelphia may be completed remotely using two-way communication systems. When a defendant is being held in jail, the bench warrant hearing must occur within 72 hours.
Out of State Extradition
Federal laws broadly govern the extradition of individuals between states. International extraditions are always handled according to federal laws. States have some flexibility in how they handle extraditions that are not specifically addressed by federal law; however, they may not create difficulties that place an unreasonable burden on other states. Each state generally has a basic set of requirements that states demanding a defendant must satisfy.
The Uniforms Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) was implemented in efforts to standardize procedures from state to state. In Pennsylvania, the timing of the extradition process may vary based on whether the individual was arrested for new charges in Pennsylvania. If the defendant is arrested for new charges they are processed through Philadelphia's arraignment and bail process.
If the defendant was arrested solely because of an out-of-state warrant, the county will hold the defendant to determine if the jurisdiction that issued the warrant will be assuming custody. In cases where the defendant was arrested on new charges in Philadelphia, typically the defendant will not be transferred until the local case is completed. In lengthy criminal proceedings where the defendant is unable to make bail, they may potentially remain in custody for years.
The only states that have not adopted the UCEA guidelines are Louisiana, South Carolina, and North Dakota. These states do have similar provisions relating to extradition. The National Association of Extradition Officials is an organization that seeks to maintain uniformity among states; however, not all of the states are members of the organization.
Possibility of Bail for Defendants Awaiting Extradition
Pennsylvania is among a few states that do allow for defendants facing extradition to post bail. This does not apply to those accused of very serious felony offenses. If the defendant fails to comply with the conditions they will forfeit their bond. Having a knowledgeable local defense attorney may benefit those in custody by asking the court to set a lower bail.
Probation for Offenses in Other Jurisdictions
The Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department (APPD) are responsible for the community supervision of individuals on probation and parole. Often, this unit will be supervising more than 40,000 individuals at a given time. A small portion of their caseload (approximately 500) involves the supervision of offenders who reside in Philadelphia that were convicted of offenses in other jurisdictions.
Out of State Traffic Violations
In today's digital environment, federal, state and local agencies can share information very effectively. For example, Pennsylvania is a member of the Driver License Compact (DLC), which uses a national database. This interstate network ensures that a driver's state of residency is made aware of serious out-of-state traffic offenses such as DUI. In this situation, a driver with an unresolved violation that occurred in another state will be unable to renew their driver's license.
Philadelphia County Rule 530 Arrest Warrants
Rule 530 is a local law that applies if the Pennsylvania State Police arrest an individual in Philadelphia County that has an arrest warrant in another jurisdiction within Pennsylvania. The defendant will appear for a hearing before an Arraignment Court Magistrate. The defendant may be eligible to have a bail set or may waive this right. If waived, the State Police will facilitate the defendant's transfer to the court that issued the warrant.
Defense Lawyer Represents Those Arrested in Philadelphia
Were you charged with a criminal offense in the Philadelphia area while visiting from another state? Joseph D. Lento has been defending clients facing out-of-state criminal allegations for many years in this region. He provides aggressive representation and will ensure that your legal rights are protected. Contact the office today for a complimentary case consultation at (215) 535-5353.