Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Jan 8, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

bench warrant is a type of warrant that is ordered by a judge against the defendant in a criminal case or a similar proceeding such as for a traffic ticket. A bench warrant is typically issued in the case of a failure of an individual to appear for trial, sometimes abbreviated “FTA.” The “bench” is the traditional term for the judge’s seat.

What’s the difference between a regular arrest warrant and a bench warrant?

In serious criminal cases, an absence of an individual and failure to make an appearance will most likely lead to a regular arrest warrant, which would spur an immediate attempt to find and jail the defendant. A bench warrant, on the other hand, usually does not mean the police will be at your door the next morning.

But, your name will go into a statewide computer system that serves the entire law enforcement community to keep them up to date on criminal charges. Once your name is in the database if you have to deal with the police for any of the possible reasons – even resulting from an incident that was not your fault, such as someone hitting your car from behind – you will be taken into custody for the outstanding bench warrant and receive additional charges with harsher consequences.

Once you are taken into custody, you will have to post bail before you can be released. Typically, bail on a bench warrant for failure to appear will be enough to cover the fines and court costs for both the original offense and the FTA. Then, you’ll get a new court date.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What do you do when there’s a bench warrant out for you?

If you know that there is a bench warrant out for your arrest due to your absence in court, you can usually call either the clerk of the court or the local police department and arrange to come in and pay the bail so that the warrant will be recalled. You should find out when you call, what kinds of payments they will accept, since a paper check is almost always not good enough, and not all localities are able to take credit cards.

If you had posted bail before the missed court date, that money has almost certainly been forfeited at this point. If you had very good reasons why you weren’t at the court on time and didn’t call, you might be able to persuade the judge, depending on the circumstances, into letting you get that bail back or at least having it credited against your fines and costs. It probably won’t work if you just wrote the wrong dates down on your calendar, but if the circumstances around your absence are reasonably important, you have a good chance.

Naturally, having an experienced criminal lawyer arguing on your behalf during this process will show the judge not only that you take the charges against you seriously, but also that you are genuinely contrite about your failure to appear.