Bench Warrant Definition

An arrest warrant issued by a judge while sitting on the bench, holding court. A bench warrant is used when a defendant on bail fails to show up, or when a witness under subpoena fails to appear. The judge will usually set bail at the same time. Bench warrants for lesser matters (such as failing to appear to answer to a traffic ticket) may simply be noted on the defendant's record. If the defendant is stopped later by the police for any reason, the police will have the ability to act on the warrant and arrest the person.