Bench warrants are a type of arrest warrant issued by a judge against a person who violates a court order. In Indiana, courts have the power to issue bench warrants and command law enforcement agents of the state to take a defendant into custody. The laws governing these warrants are found in Title 35 of the Indiana Code.
Bench warrants are most commonly issued when a person fails to appear at a scheduled court appearance. Unlike arrest warrants, the court does not have to rely upon the testimony or evidence provided by the state, and can issue the warrant upon its own volition.
For example, Indiana Code section 35-33-8-7 states that the court can issue a warrant for any criminal defendant's arrest if the defendant has posted bail and failed to appear before the court as ordered. Further, Indiana Code section 35-33-10-1 allows a court to demand anyone released upon their own recognizance to appear at a specific time. Failure to do so also results in a bench warrant being issued.
Bench warrants can also be issued in any case where the defendant is not arrested for a crime, but instead is issued a summons to appear before the court at a certain time. For example, when someone in Indiana is charged with traffic violation or similar misdemeanors, the officer typically does not arrest the person and instead issues a summons. This summons is a court order, and failure to comply with it also results in the issuance of a bench warrant.
Indiana Code section 35-33-4-1 states that a court can issue a warrant for someone who fails to appear pursuant to a summons, though it can only do so after at least seven days after the issuance of the summons.
Like all arrest warrants, bench warrants command law enforcement to take the defendant into custody and bring her before the judge. Unlike criminal charges, bench warrants have no statutes of limitations. These are warrants against the defendant because for the violation of a court order. These warrants stay valid until the defendant is brought before the court, and until this happens the defendant can be arrested at any time.