February 16, 2021 | Criminal Defense
When the police need legal authorization from a judge to do something, they must seek a warrant. But since each state is legally independent of the other states, warrants generally do not cross state lines.
The drafters of the U.S. Constitution knew that this would encourage criminals to “run for the border” to escape prosecution. Conflicts would arise if states could harbor fugitives from another state. As a result, the U.S. Constitution prescribes the process that each state uses to extradite the subjects of out-of-state warrants.
Here are some things you should know about what will happen if you get an out-of-state warrant for your arrest.
Why Has an Arrest Warrant Been Issued In My Name?
To make an arrest, law enforcement must have probable cause.
Probable cause can come from a few different sources, which include:
If a law enforcement officer observes you committing a crime, the officer has probable cause to arrest you. For example, if a police officer sees you driving erratically and observes signs of drunkenness after stopping you, the police officer has probable cause to arrest you for DUI or OVI.
Evidence Reviewed by a Judge
In cases that require an investigation, such as a theft, a law enforcement investigator might apply for an arrest warrant from a judge. The investigator presents evidence to the judge in the form of an affidavit. The judge reviews the application, and upon finding probable cause, he or she will issue the arrest warrant.
By issuing the arrest warrant, the judge shows agreement that the investigator has probable cause to make an arrest. Thus, the investigator only needs to find you to arrest you.
Finding by a Judge
When a judge imposes a legal requirement upon you, he or she can issue a bench warrant if you violate the order. For example, suppose that the state charged you with a crime and the judge set a hearing for the charges. If you fail to appear in court for the hearing, the judge could find that you violated the court’s order and issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
The judge’s findings provide probable cause for an arrest. If law enforcement officers find you and identify you as the person in the warrant, they will arrest you without the need for any other probable cause. Law enforcement officers could find you walking down the street, behaving in a manner that is completely within the law, and they will still have the authority to arrest you.
What Happens If You Leave the State That Issued the Arrest Warrant?
The FBI maintains a database called the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The FBI makes this database available to law enforcement agencies throughout the country to both upload and search outstanding warrants.
The FBI does not require participating agencies to enter warrants into NCIC. But most agencies do so because the database can help them to track down their own wanted fugitives. Agencies often enter all of their warrants, even ones for minor offenses like unpaid traffic fines.
The agencies want to track down fugitives, even if they ultimately decide not to pick them up and bring them back to the state in which the crime occurred.
Out-of-State Arrest Warrants
Arrest warrants do not say “out of state” or “domestic” on them. An out-of-state arrest warrant is issued by a state other than the one in which you were found. So an arrest warrant written in Wisconsin is an out-of-state warrant in Ohio, but a domestic warrant in Wisconsin.
If you are stopped in Ohio and you have an outstanding arrest warrant in Wisconsin, the police have the authority to hold you to determine if you are the person named in the arrest warrant. Law enforcement agencies avoid second-guessing one another and will honor other states’ arrest warrants because they want their own arrest warrants to be honored in return.
In other words, you should not expect a sheriff’s deputy or police officer in Ohio to let you go if you have an arrest warrant from another state. Instead, expect to be held so that the law enforcement agency can notify the state that issued the arrest warrant.
The U.S. Constitution outlines the extradition process used in every state. The Constitution allows for some discretion in implementing the process, but 48 states –including Ohio — have passed the same set of extradition laws. The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) is used in every state, with the exception of Missouri and South Carolina. Those states have laws that are compatible with the UCEA and federal extradition law.
If the state that issued the arrest warrant wants you to be returned, the governor’s office of that state will issue a demand for extradition with a copy of the charging documents. The Ohio governor’s office will review the request, and if it appears valid on its face, they will issue an Ohio arrest warrant to hold you until you are extradited.
An Ohio court will conduct an extradition hearing to inform you of the charges and allow you to request a lawyer. If you and your lawyer choose to challenge the arrest or extradition, the judge will set your deadline for requesting a writ of habeas corpus.
If you choose not to challenge the arrest or extradition, you will waive your extradition rights. The state that requested your extradition will transport you within 30 days. If the requesting state does not send someone to transport you within 30 days, the arresting state can release you.
The U.S. Constitution, federal law, and Ohio’s extradition law all provide you with very few grounds for challenging extradition. The law is written to prevent states from examining each other’s arrest warrants. The judge will usually grant extradition if the extradition request is valid on its face.
But you can challenge extradition if:
- You are not the person named in the arrest warrant
- The extradition request is flawed
- The extradition request does not match the arrest warrant
- You have not been charged with a crime for which an arrest warrant was issued
Rather than fighting extradition, you should consider saving your resources to fight your charges. Most extradition requests are granted, and Ohio will almost certainly hold you for the requesting state, except in cases of mistaken identity.
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