What’s the Difference Between Bench Warrant and Arrest Warrant?


20 Jul 2023 / Gravis Law

What’s the Difference Between Bench Warrant and Arrest Warrant?

You may be familiar with the term “warrant,” but did you know that there are different types of warrants? Two common ones are bench warrants and arrest warrants, each issued under different circumstances and for different reasons.

What is a Bench Warrant? A bench warrant is an order from a judge to arrest someone who has violated a court order. For instance, if an individual fails to appear for a scheduled hearing, the judge can issue a bench warrant for their arrest. Law enforcement is then authorized to search for and apprehend the person. The name “bench warrant” originates from the fact that the judge issues it from the bench during court proceedings.

When would a bench warrant be issued? Usually, a judge issues a bench warrant if someone:

  • Disobeys a subpoena to appear in court
  • Fails to attend a scheduled hearing
  • Refuses to comply with a court order

Once a bench warrant is issued in someone’s name, it permits immediate arrest, and the individual may be taken into custody to appear before the judge.

What is an arrest warrant?

An arrest warrant, on the other hand, instructs law enforcement to apprehend a person who is accused of committing a crime. A judge or magistrate signs an arrest warrant when there is probable cause to believe that the individual in question has committed the alleged crime.

When is an Arrest Warrant Issued?

The primary difference between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant lies in their purpose. An arrest warrant directs officers to arrest a specific person accused of a crime. These warrants are typically issued for new criminal cases rather than for addressing outstanding court violations. Before an arrest warrant can be issued, it must be supported by probable cause, which often requires law enforcement to submit an affidavit to the court for the judge’s review.

What Happens After a Warrant is Issued?

Once a court issues a warrant, it is entered into a state database accessible to any law enforcement official in Texas. As a result, officers have the authority to arrest the individual named in the warrant at any time and any place, whether they are at home, in public, or during a traffic stop.

It is important to note that the execution of a warrant is not subject to specific deadlines or timeframes; it remains valid until the individual is taken into custody. However, being arrested under a court-issued warrant does not automatically lead to a criminal conviction. The arresting officer may detain the person for questioning and decide whether to keep them in custody or release them until their scheduled hearing, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case.

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