Legal Dictionary

bench warrant

Definition of bench warrant


bench warrant (plural bench warrants)

  1. (law) A type of arrest warrant issued by a presiding judge or by a court against a person guilty of some contempt or indicted for some crime authorizing his or her immediate arrest.

Further reading

A bench warrant is a variant of an arrest warrant, which authorizes the immediate on-sight arrest of the individual subject to the bench warrant. Typically, judges issue bench warrants for persons deemed to be in contempt of court - possibly as a result of that person's failure to appear at the appointed time and date for a mandated court appearance. Bench warrants are issued in either criminal or civil court proceedings.

Commonly (but not always), the person who is subject to a bench warrant has intentionally avoided a court appearance to escape the perceived consequences of being found guilty of a crime. If a person was on bail awaiting criminal trial when the non-appearance took place, the court usually forfeits bail and may set a higher bail amount to be paid when the subject is re-arrested, but normally the suspect is held in custody without bail. If a person has a bench warrant against them when stopped by a law enforcement officer, the authorities put them in jail and a hearing is held. The hearing usually results in the court setting a new bail amount, new conditions, and a new court appearance date. Often, if a person is arrested on a bench warrant, the court declares them a flight risk (likely to flee) and orders them held without bail.

Bench warrants are traditionally issued by sitting judges or magistrates.


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