How is a bench warrant different from other warrants?

judge's gavel

What Happens When a Warrant is Issued?

So, what is a bench warrant exactly?  In Michigan, a Bench Warrant is issued from the bench, aka the judge, when a person that was ordered to appear before a particular Court doesn’t show. There are limited situations a Bench Warrant is issued and is a form of an Arrest Warrant.  Consider a bench warrant to be a judge’s invitation to show up in court and a possible extended invitation to spend some time behind bars. 

With an arrest warrant, the judge is instructing law enforcement officers to actively find you, arrest you, and bring you to jail. There, you will sit behind bar until the judge can see you.  A bench warrant however, is only going to have you arrested and brought to jail if you break the law or other get the attention of a law enforcement officer.

 For example, a bench warrant and speeding ticket will find you arrested and behind bars. A bench warrant is one of the things that officers find when they run your driver’s license check at a traffic stop. 

Can bench warrant be expunged?.

When a defendant doesn’t show for any court ordered appearance, the judge will issue a bench for the arrest of the defendant. A notice is mailed to the last known address, advising of the bench warrant being issued.  A responsible defendant will turn themselves in to the courts. The reasons can vary from forgot the court date, mixed up the dates, didn’t have transportation, or a personal emergency may have kept them from appearing in court. This is a “walk-in” arraignment, meaning the defendant walked in to be arraigned. 

For a bench warrant to be expunged from the defendant’s record, the defendant has to be found not guilty of the original crime or the case has been dismissed. The request for expunging the bench warrant must be requested by the defendant’s attorney. 

What is bench warrant under advisement?

A BWA, bench warranty under advisement, means the judge is giving the defendant a chance to redeem themselves before the court.  A judge will sometimes, rarely, issue a Bench Warrant Under Advisement because they are still  considering issuing an arrest warrant or bench  warrant. 

A defendant will not be arrested with a bench warrant under advisement as they would be with an arrest warrant or bench warrant. A law enforcement officer would advise a person that there is a BWA in place and would recommend they contact the courts to address the matter. 

Will a bench warrant keep me from flying?

Not unless you otherwise break the law while in route to the airport, at the airport, or on the airplane. Because a bench warrant doesn’t have an active search for you, your ID isn’t flagged at airports, whereas an arrest warrant would and any attempt to leave the state or country would be stopped. 

Is a bench warrant contempt of court?

 A criminal contempt of court is when the defendant disobeys, disrespects, or offends the court in any fashion or manner, whether it is the judge, jury, court employees, or the dignity of a court or legal system. It can occur directly while in court and to the court, whether the judge is present or not. 

The contempt of court is handled separate from the original criminal charges and if the contempt of court happens outside of the court room, the judge may issue a bench warrant for contempt of court actions. 

Is bench warrant without bail? 

A bench warrant can end up with your arrest if you break the law or are otherwise detained by law enforcement and they run a driver’s license check. If you are arrested, you may have the opportunity to bail out, depending on the original legal issue and if the judge deems you to be a safe risk. If you are considered a flight risk, your bench warrant arrest may be without bail possibility. 

Is a bench warrant in a sentence handed down by a judge? 

An outstanding arrest warrant means that law enforcement is looking for you at your place of residence, place of employment, or any place you’re known to be located. Your driver’s license is flagged to have you arrested should you be pulled over traffic offense or have any reason for law enforcement involvement. 

A bench warrant is not part of the sentencing phase.  A bench warrant is issued by the judge and while law enforcement is not actively seeking you, they do have permission by the court to arrest  you if you have an encounter with them. 

lady justice

How To Clear A Bench Warrant

Being present at any and all court dates is important. When you defy a court order, such as not appearing as ordered, a bench warrant is issued.  If you suspect that you have a bench warrant in your name, you can find out in the following ways:

  • Contact your attorney
  • Contact your bail bond agent
  • Contact the courts

The best way to clear a bench warrant in your name is to turn yourself in to the courts. You may choose to have your attorney present when you do and if bail is possible, they can handle that while there, shortening the time you are behind bars. Call 844-YOU-WALK today for bail services when you need them most.