Bench warrants are sometimes confused with arrest warrants but they are two distinctly different entities. Although both are issued by judges or magistrates that is pretty much where the similarity stops. Arrest warrants are issued because a person committed a crime or some type of civil wrong that could be punishable by arrest. For example: deadbeats are often arrested and thrown in to jail for failure to pay child support.
A bench warrant as the term implies is issued from the bench or the judge. The difference is that a person is subject to a bench warrant because he or she directly disobeyed the court. Bench warrants are issued when a person is ordered to appear in court but fails to do so and fails to provide a reasonable excuse for not appearing. Bench warrants are issued when a judge orders a person to fulfill community service or some type of probation and he or she does not. A bench warrant can be issued if the judge orders a person to undergo physical, psychological or mental evaluations and the person refuses to or does not follow through on what he or she was told to do.
Realistically speaking a bench warrant can be issued just about any time a person disobeys a court order or directive.Just as all courts have state rules, county rules and municipal rules, there are local court rules that the judges themselves create and enforce. For example if the judge ordersa personto have a DNA test in a paternity test and the person or persons refuse to do so , they can be held in contempt and if they do not show up at the appointed time for the DNA testing a bench warrant can and probably will be issued for their arrest.
It should not have to be said but it bears remembering that if a person fails to do what a judicial officer tells him or her to do in court then that same person is going to have a really difficult time when he or she is hauled back into court in handcuffs before that same judge. Judicial officers demand and expect their orders to be obeyed. To not obey a judge's order is tantamount to invoking the wrath of the gods in Roman and Greek mythology.
Bench warrants are easy to avoid; just follow the judge's orders and you need never have to worry about a bench warrant. If you should ever be so unlucky as to have a bench warrant issued for you then you should do as they said in the old lawyer shows and movies: "you should throw yourself on the mercy of the court"and hope that the judge believes in mercy and forgiveness.