Legal Updates

Winning a Detainer Hearing in Philadelphia

Aggressive Detainer Lawyers

Most defendants convicted of crimes in Philadelphia are sentenced to a period of probation. Incarceration is usually implemented in serious cases or for violent offenders who prior offenses suggest they cannot safely exist in society.

In Philadelphia, probation can be reporting or non-reporting.  Probation is court ordered supervision where an individual is closely monitored by the government.  The defendant is assigned a probation officer (“PO”).  A judge may order that as a condition of probation the defendant take therapy classes, undergo psychological evaluations, submit to drug and alcohol monitoring, perform community service, obtain education or employment, or participate in various programs.  Such conditions are called conditions of probation.  If a defendant violates these conditions he may in violation of his probation.  If the defendant’s probation officer takes these violations seriously then a warrant may be issued.  In such circumstances, the defendant is forced to turn himself in and a detainer is issued.  The defendant is not released from custody until the detainer is lifted (e.g., there is a hearing before the defendant’s back judge concerning the PO’s violation of probation).


If the defendant is arrested a detainer will also be issued.  The defendant is ineligible for release until he appears before the back judge.  For example, an individual who is arrested for Retail Theft is sentenced to three years’ probation. While on probation they are charged with another Retail Theft.  Even if the defendant can post bail on their new case they will remain in custody because the new arrest triggers a detainer.  Defendants who have picked up new misdemeanor offenses while on probation may want to file a motion to lift detainer.  This motion filed by an attorney on behalf of a defendant is essentially a request to the back judge to release the defendant from custody.  Once the attorney files the motion the court will schedule a hearing date before the defendants back judge.  The hearing is a great opportunity to make your case to the judge for continued probation, additional treatment, and support if needed.  Consider the following important steps:


It is useful to have familial support at the detainer hearings.  The judge wants to see the defendant will have support if he decides to lift the detainer.  Therefore if the defendant has people available to show up for the hearing this may be helpful in getting the detainer lifted.


The detainer hearing is the chance for the defendant to give his side of the story.  It is important for the defense attorney and defendant to have a strategy going into the hearing.  There should be a clear explanation for why the alleged conduct is not a violation or why this conduct will not happen again in the future.  The more compelling the defendant is able to make this argument the better.


In some cases it may make sense to consider release to house arrest.  If the defendant has been incarcerated for a serious crime the judge may only release him to house arrest of inpatient treatment.  Therefore, it is important to consider the possibility of limited release.  In such circumstances getting the defendant out of prison into a better situation is the priority.


It is important to make the judge aware of positive activities while on probation.  For example if defendant was employed, taking care of family members, working the community, or attending rehabilitative conduct the judge should be aware of this positive conduct.  In many cases a defendant who can show he as employment upon release has a better chance of getting his detainer lifted.


If the probation violation is a new case then it may make sense to resolve this first.  Speak with a Philadelphia detainer lawyer about whether it is realistic to get the detainer lifted.  For example, if you are facing an aggravated assault charge you probably want to resolve this case before filing a motion to lift detainer.  Every case is different.  Therefore, it is important to speak with a qualified Philadelphia criminal defense attorney about whether you should file the motion.  Understand that if you face new violent felony charges your focus should probably be on beating the open case first.  If the defendant beats the open case then he may avoid seeing his back judge, as such detainers are often lifted automatically.


A private criminal attorney can schedule a detainer hearing with the court.  The attorney can also schedule a “bring down” to bring the defendant from their current prison to the courthouse on the day of the hearing.  While many attorneys avoid bringing their client’s before the court it may be effective for the judge to see the defendant on the day of the hearing.  Therefore, consider requesting the defendant be present for the detainer hearing.  The defendant has a constitutional right to be present.


If you or a loved one has incurred a direct or technical violation of probation, contact our experienced Philadelphia detainer lawyers about getting out of prison.  While every case is different, following the principles in this post may increase your chances of getting a detainer lifted.  Our firm has successfully lifted hundreds if not thousands of detainers in Philadelphia, PA.  We point with pride to cases like Commonwealth v. C.W., where we successfully lifted the defendant’s detainer while he was in custody for a Receiving Stolen Property charge.  This case is merely illustrative of the many hundreds of detainers we have successfully lifted over ten years.  Please note every case is different.  Nothing in this post should be construed mean that any detainer can be lifted.  Unlike many law firms we honestly evaluate your case from the outset.  If we believe there is a realistic chance of success we get to work.  If the defendant is facing a serious felony charges (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault) it makes sense to focus on the open case. For a free consultation contact our Philadelphia detainer lawyers at 267-535-9776.