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Bench Warrant? Understanding Criminal Law Terms

What is a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant is a order that a judge or justice of the peace issues against a person who has not appeared for their court matter, or has failed to remain in attendance at their court matter. The warrant is issued to a police officer, and is a type of arrest warrant.

The fact that a judge or justice of the peace issues a bench warrant does not necessarily mean that the individual against whom the warrant is issued will automatically be arrested. If the judge or justice of the peace orders a bench warrant to hold (also called a bench warrant with discretion), that the warrant will be rescinded if the individual is present at their next court date.

Bench warrants serve as a method to ensure that the individual appears for all further court dates, and in addition, serve as a method of punishing those who repeatedly fail to appear for their dates. If a bench warrant is issued against someone, any police officer in Ontario can arrest them and transport them to the location where the warrant was issued.

Bench warrants, like other warrants, do not “expire”, so it is important to address them as soon as possible. This is why it is imperative that individuals retain counsel for their criminal matters. Retaining a lawyer means that warrants can be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently, while ensuring that the individual’s rights are best protected.

bench warrantIn most cases for minor offences there is a pick-up radius placed on a warrant.  Fro example, if a person had a bench warrant issued in Hamilton, Ontario based on a Fail to Appear for a mischief under 5000$ charge, and then a year later they were arrested in Dawson City, Yukon for another alleged offence, the bench warrant from Hamilton would probably not be acted upon based the expense of return the accused to the city of Hamilton.  In accordance with with most police force protocols the accused would be held in custody until the jurisdiction with the warrant in the system confirmed that the accused was outside the “pick-up radius”.





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