A bench warrant is a warrant for a person’s arrest issued by a judge (the “bench”). Most often these warrants are issued because a person failed to appear in court for an arraignment or other matter or because he or she violated a court order.
It is not uncommon for individuals to be unaware that a bench warrant has been issued. For example, a person who is arrested and released on promise to appear on arraignment, but who does not appear on the scheduled date will, in all probability, have a bench warrant issued for his or her arrest. That individual may not have appeared because he or she was not properly advised of the arraignment date, the arraignment date was changed but the arrestee was not informed, or the arrestee is unaware that charges were even filed subsequent to the arrest.
Example: Joan was arrested in Costa Mesa for misdemeanor trespassing. She was cited and released but was not advised of an arraignment date. Nine months after her arrest, the prosecutor filed a misdemeanor complaint against her. The prosecutor sent a letter to the address Joan provided upon her arrest advising her of the charges and arraignment date. But Joan had moved in the interim and the letter was never forwarded. She had no idea there were charges against her and she just presumed the case was dropped. When she didn’t show up in court, the judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest. Many months later, she was stopped on a speeding violation. The officer ran a records check and learned that she had a warrant for her arrest. She was shocked when she was arrested.