bench warrant

Definition

An arrest warrant issued directly by a sitting judge or magistrate to a law-enforcement officer in a criminal or civil court proceeding. The bench warrant authorizes the arrest of an individual who has been held in contempt of court, especially when the criminal defendant on bail makes a nonappearance or when a witness under subpoena does not appear for hearing or a trial. In the event that an individual was on bail, the court will usually set a higher bail amount or eliminate bail altogether.