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Philadelphia Police Changes Its Arrest Policy, Again


5/8/2020

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia police ceased arresting and booking certain persons alleged to have committed low-level, non-violent offenses like retail theft, burglary, economic crimes, and summary offenses. Police were still arresting people accused of violent crimes like murder, aggravated assault, robbery, weapons offenses under the Violation of the Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA), and arson. The hope was to limit the amount of people detained at each of the police districts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Philadelphia Police Department has again changed its policy and will return to arresting and processing the accused “in the traditional manner.”

The specific offenses that the Police Department has indicated will return to the usual arrest process are burglary, theft from automobile, theft from person, stolen automobile, and retail theft. Many retailers in Philadelphia noticed an increase in thefts from their stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not surprising considering the unemployment rate is “literally off the charts.” While some cities have observed that with fewer people outdoors, the streets are easier to police, the opposite seems to prove true in Philadelphia based on Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw’s decision to again modify the arrest policy. 

If you are charged with burglary or theft offenses during the pandemic, you can expect to be arrested and transported to one of the police districts throughout the City. There you will be asked for biographical information, fingerprinted, photographed, and upon completion of processing, you will be arraigned via video from the basement of the Criminal Justice Center. The preliminary arraignment is the process wherein the accused is told of the exact criminal charges that are being brought, the factual basis for those charges, and bail will be set by a trial commissioner or magistrate. You may be given a monetary secured bail, meaning you will have to post a certain amount of money in order to be released, or you may be given a monetary unsecured bail, which is essentially a promise to pay a certain amount if you violate any terms of your pre-trial release, including failure to appear for a scheduled court hearing. Most theft offenses permit the accused to be released ROR, released on your own recognizance, which permits you to be released from detention without having to post anything. If you cannot afford to pay bail, the only option will be to remain in custody until resolution of the case or if a judge modifies or reduces the bail at a later hearing. Retaining a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney like Lauren Wimmer early in the process ensures you have the best chance at receiving a bail that will avoid you having to go to jail and permit you to fight your case on the street.

Wimmer Criminal Defense, PC is a Philadelphia criminal defense firm practicing in state and federal court in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Lauren A. Wimmer has been recognized as one of the best attorneys in the Philadelphia area. If you or a loved one has been arrested or anticipates being arrested for a crime in either state, call (215) 712-1212 or fill out our convenient online form for a free consultation to discuss your rights and next steps.