A bench warrant is a warrant issued by a judge for the arrest of a person who has violated court rules and is in contempt of court. The warrant gives police the powers to apprehend the defendant and bring him before the court to answer contempt charges. 

What Is the Difference between a Bench and an Arrest Warrant?

A bench warrant is only used to arrest a person for being in contempt. An arrest warrant is issued to arrest a person who is a suspect in a crime.

How Is the Process of a Judge Issuing This Type of Warrant?

If a defendant fails to appear at his court hearing, the judge will find them in contempt. Before issuing the warrant, the judge will cite the reason why the person is in contempt. Failing to appear in court is not the only reason why this type of warrant is issued. It may also be issued for:

  • Failing to appear in court to testify after being subpoenaed to testify
  • Failing to pay child support in accordance with a court ruling ordering them to do so

Is the Warrant Only Used for Criminal Cases?

No, a judge can issue a civil bench warrant too. For example, a civil bench warrant may be issued for someone who has defaulted on a judgment. This warrant can also be issued for a jury member who does not show up in court to serve on a jury. Other reason for a bench warrant include:

  • Failing to pay fines
  • Violating probation requirements
  • Failing to appear at a court-ordered educational program
  • Committing a crime while out on bail
  • Otherwise failing to comply with conditions of bail

What Happens After the Person Is Arrested?

The court case proceeds like any other. The defendant must prove that they are not in contempt of court. One common defense is to show that they were not in court due to unforeseen circumstances, such as being involved in a car accident on the way to court.

Should I Contact an Attorney about a Bench Warrant?

Yes, you should contact a criminal attorney about the warrant. You still have the opportunity to prove your innocence and resolve the warrant.