bench warrant | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

A bench warrant is a type of arrest warrant issued by a judge on behalf of the court rather than through police action.

A bench warrant is a type of legal order issued by a judge that authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest an individual and bring them before the court. Unlike other types of arrest warrants that are typically issued based on evidence of criminal activity, bench warrants are issued when a person fails to appear in court as required by law.

Bench warrants are commonly issued in situations where an individual has been issued a citation or summons to appear in court, but fails to do so. This can occur in a variety of situations, such as traffic violations, civil lawsuits, or criminal cases. When a person fails to appear as required, the judge may issue a bench warrant that allows law enforcement officers to arrest the individual and bring them before the court to face charges.

The purpose of a bench warrant is to ensure that individuals who have been summoned to court appear as required. Failure to appear can result in serious consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and other penalties. By issuing a bench warrant, the court can compel individuals to appear and face the consequences of their actions or alleged offenses.

The process of issuing a bench warrant typically begins when a judge becomes aware that a person has failed to appear in court as required. The judge may issue a bench warrant at that time, which is then entered into law enforcement databases and communicated to local police departments. Law enforcement officers can then use the warrant to locate and arrest the individual in question.

Once an individual is arrested on a bench warrant, they may be held in custody until their court appearance or until they can post bail or bond. The specific procedures for processing these warrants can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but the general process involves bringing the individual before the court to answer for their failure to appear.

In some cases, individuals may be able to avoid the issuance of a a warrant by contacting the court and arranging for a new court date. This is known as “quashing” the warrant and can help individuals avoid the risk of arrest and other consequences associated with bench warrants. However, it is important to take such action as soon as possible, as failure to do so can result in the issuance of a warrant and further legal trouble.


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Last Modified: 04/07/2023

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