Bench warrants are ordered by a judge against the defendant in a criminal case or traffic case because they failed to appear on their scheduled court date. A bench warrant is an arrest warrant. The judge has the option to order a bench warrant or a pure arrest warrant for that defendant.
The simple difference is the bench warrant will only cause the police to arrest you if they have an interaction with you such as a traffic ticket or even if you are in an accident and it is not your fault. An arrest warrant is much different in that the police will actively hunt you down and arrest you. The arrest warrant is usually reserved for more serious criminal cases. Judges are human and you can make them angry if you fail to show the proper respect for the court. Some upset judges have taken it upon themselves to ask law enforcement to bring the defendant in on a bench warrant usually after the defendant has failed to appear several times. A great example of this is the old story of the driver with a sack full of parking tickets who was just ignoring the court.
Anytime your name is added to the warrant database, that information is available to each and every law enforcement officer in that state. The reason for this is so every officer can run your identity to see if you have any warrants or other issues they may need to take you into custody. The officer can run your name every time you are stopped for a traffic ticket or at the scales. What happens when they notice you have a warrant? They can put you in the squad car and take you in. The good news is that sometimes the warrant is from another jurisdiction and that jurisdiction must pay to come get you and bring you back for court so they may or may not allow you to go free. If the crime is big enough they will surely come get you.
Bench warrants are a court’s way of getting your attention and collecting their money. You will need to post a bond, either cash or bail bond if you are arrested, in order to be released if the judge sets bail. If no bail is set, you just sit in jail until your court date. Bail is usually determined by the crime. If you are charged with armed robbery or even murder, the bail can be six figures or more if it is even offered. If you are charged with a traffic ticket they usually make the bail the amount of the original fine and court costs plus the cost of the warrant process. After you post bail, they give you a new court date and I suggest you appear at your scheduled date and time.
If you have a bench warrant issued in your name, you should call the court and see what you need to do to get the issue resolved. If it involves a traffic ticket you can usually pay the fine and court costs plus any warrant fees to the court and the matter will go away. Of course if you do that you are pleading guilty to that traffic ticket. A better way is to find out from the court clerk the amount for bond, then post that bond and request a new court date. That way you already have the money posted with the court and you still get your day in court so you can try to beat or at least get the original charge reduced.
Note that many court clerks will not accept personal checks. Most clerks will accept money orders, cashier’s checks or cash, and some even take credit cards. They usually just accept MasterCard, Visa, and Discover. Make sure your credit card is one they will accept.
Bench warrants require your full attention since they do not go away by themselves. You will need to take immediate action to protect yourself and your CDL. Often judges will send in paperwork to suspend your license if you fail to show up. The court will get their money; the case will be closed because no judge wants to see your case come up over and over when they get so many new cases every day. The judge can only get rid of your case by closing it so he will take action to make that happen. Just make sure you do everything possible to protect your CDL.