Got a warrant? Get free advice, same-day hearing at 'Safe Return'

Courts are promising "favorable consideration" to citizens with warrants who surrender at coming event.
At podium, Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker discusses 'Safe Return,' with, from left, FJD President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield, and Rev. Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. (Courtesy of FJD)

The Philadelphia courts system is again offering a three-day period when Philadelphians with outstanding warrants can choose to surrender, get free advice from a defense lawyer and "favorable consideration," the courts said.

 

"Safe Return is an opportunity for anyone with certain outstanding warrants to voluntarily surrender and receive favorable consideration in the process," said the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (FJD) President Judge Shelia Woods-Skipper, who announced the program at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, which will host the event, along with Mayor Jim Kenney and other leaders, on Tuesday. "It is anticipated that most of those who voluntarily surrender are likely to go home that same day."

 

There are approximately 38,000 outstanding bench warrants in Philadelphia and 9,000 probation courts and there is no limit to how many can be served during Safe Return. Those with outstanding warrants issued by either the Court of Common Pleas, Municipal Court (including Traffic Division) or State Parole are eligible to get hearings that same day if they come to the event. Typically, these types of warrants involve a period of incarceration before hearings are conducted. All will have a chance to speak with a defense attorney before they choose to surrender

 

“Our church stands ready to serve as a sanctuary for healing and to help people straighten out their lives and begin anew," said Reverend Dr. Alyn E. Waller, Senior Pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, which will be open May 1-3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, for "Philadelphia Safe Return."

 

"People make mistakes – that's why we're human," Waller said. "This is an opportunity to take the necessary steps to address the mistakes and make things right to begin rebuilding their lives."

Not all warrants are eligible for Safe Return. Those with Family Court Probation or Bench Warrants, for both adults and juveniles, are advised to go to Family Court (1501 Arch St.), and it is not intended for those with active arrest warrants, who the courts advised to surrender at local police districts.

But social services, addiction services, housing support and other types of outreach providers will be present at "Safe Return" to help citizens.

The last time such a program was offered was in 2008, and more than 1,000 people turned themselves in over four days. The FJD said the "overwhelming majority received favorable dispositions or new court dates."

Safe Return

The program, for people with warrants who want to turn themselves in, runs May 1-3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, 2800 West Cheltenham Ave., in East Mt. Airy.

The program is not intended for juveniles, and parents/guardians are asked to not bring any children. A shuttle from Olney Transportation Center will be available. ID is not required.

For more information, call 267-765-6898, or visit https://phlsafereturn.wordpress.com.

 
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