If you receive a traffic or other ticket requiring you to appear in a certain court on a certain day at a certain time, your wisest strategy is to do exactly that. If you fail to appear, the judge likely will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

FindLaw explains that bench warrants and arrest warrants represent two different species of the same animal. A judge issues a bench warrant himself or herself from his or her courtroom bench. While a judge must also issue an arrest warrant, he or she does so because the prosecutor and law enforcement officers have presented him or her with probable cause to arrest the person in question. Either way, the result is the same. Officers can arrest you on sight.

How bench warrants work

Although a bench warrant gives officers the authority to come to your home or place of business to arrest you, they seldom do so, especially if your bench warrant results from your failure to appear on a minor traffic violation. Instead, the warrant information, including your license plate number, becomes part of the police and sheriff’s department computer records as well as the court’s, Consequently, officers more likely will arrest you on the outstanding bench warrant if and when they observe your plate number and/or pull you over for an alleged traffic violation.

How long they remain in effect

Keep in mind that a bench warrant remains in effect for days, weeks, months or however long it takes officers to arrest you because of it. Also keep in mind that your failure to appear represents a separate and additional charge to the underlying traffic or other violation for which you neglected to go to court when ordered to do so.