What Is a Body Warrant?

A body warrant authorizes an arrest for violation of a criminal or civil order.
••• handcuffs image by William Berry from Fotolia.com

A body warrant is also called a bench warrant or writ of body attachment. It is issued by a judge to authorize a person's arrest in a civil or criminal matter.


A body or bench warrant is issued in criminal court when a person does not comply with an order. This most commonly occurs when a defendant released on bail or on his own recognizance fails to appear in court for this trial.


A civil court judge can issue a writ of body attachment when a person is in contempt of court. Contempt can occur when a witness fails to appear under a subpoena or if a person does not appear to pay a court-ordered fine. A person arrested under a body warrant can be held in contempt and may remain in jail under he complies with the subpoena to testify or pays the outstanding fine.

Arrest Procedure

If the warrant is issued by a federal judge in a federal case, the U.S. Marshals are authorized to make an arrest anywhere within the United States. If the warrant is issued in a state matter, the arrest can only be made within the state in which the warrant was issued, or outside the state if it is no more than 100 miles from the state's courthouse. An arrest can be made 24 hours a day on any day of the week, and if the arrested person is located in his home, but does not answer his door, the police may break down a door or window to enter and make an arrest.

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