A bench warrant is issued by the court to law enforcement which authorizes an individual’s arrest for failing to appear or respond to a court order. Put more broadly, a “bench warrant is an arrest warrant for a person directing an officer to bring that person to court for any purpose other than arraignment.” People v. Baez, 173 Misc.2d 380, 386 (Sup. Ct. Bronx Co., 1997). Bench warrants are utilized in a variety of cases and circumstances but some of the more common ones include:

  • Failing to appear in court on a pending criminal case after arraignment; or
  • Failing to report for jury duty or to the court as an empaneled juror; or
  • Failing to appear or respond to a grand jury or court ordered subpoena.

Sections 120 and 530.70 (2) of the New York Rules of Criminal Procedure govern how a bench warrant and arrest warrant may be executed. Law enforcement officials tasked with remanding an individual to court pursuant to a bench warrant may “enter any premises in which” the person is “reasonably believ[ed]” to be present, so long as it is not “the dwelling of a third party who is not subject to” the warrant. CPL § 120.80 (2). When not executed at a home or business, bench warrants may be triggered during background checks performed by state police during traffic stops as well as federal customs agents at New York’s airports. If you are ultimately arrested on an open bench warrant by state law enforcement, the warrant can only be closed by the judge who authorized your arrest and, typically, will only do so when you finally appear in court.

If you or a loved one are subject to an open New York bench warrant, don’t make a bad situation worse by ignoring it. A proactive response is necessary to avoid being subjected to the humiliation of arrest and imprisonment. Consulting with experienced New York bench warrant lawyers to handle your surrender with the court’s warrant office is a prudent first step.

Information pertaining to arrest warrants, specifically when they may be issued and how they may be handled preemptively before arrest, may be found in an additional passage here: