Posted on December 6, 2019 in Criminal Defense
An arrest warrant can have serious implications and should not be ignored. Further, fleeing the state in order to avoid being arrested is not a good strategy and could result in you being detained and extradited. Police officers have an online database that keeps track of outstanding warrants and will coordinate with other states to bring you into custody.
But, keep in mind that a warrant does not mean that you will be convicted of a crime. You are merely being summoned to court to face charges, whether they be for a felony, misdemeanor or for missing a court date. When you go to court you will have an opportunity to present your side of the story.
Now, an arrest warrant is an official document from the court. It authorizes the police to take you into custody. In order to obtain the warrant, the state must present evidence to a judge that a crime was committed and that you were the one that was responsible.
Note that the standard here is “probable cause,” which requires much less evidence than would be necessary to convict you of a crime. Instead, the officer only needs to show that there was some reason to believe that you committed the crime.
Alternatively, the court may issue what is known as a “bench warrant.” This occurs when a person fails to show up for a scheduled court hearing or violates one of the terms of his or her probation. Keep in mind that warrants do not expire or go away on their own. Instead, they last until a court either cancels the warrant or the person is taken into custody.
Many states, including Arizona, have adopted the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act. This act coordinates the process for bringing a person subject to an arrest warrant back to the state where the warrant was issued.
The process works as follows. If you are arrested or involved in a routine traffic stop, the officer will check the National Crime Information Center database to see if you have any outstanding warrants. If there is a warrant for your arrest in another state, officials in that state will be notified and have an opportunity to make an extradition request. This request is typically done through the Governor’s office rather than local police departments.
Now, officials in the state where the warrant is outstanding will then have 30 days in which to retrieve a fugitive. This means that you may be held for this period without any trial or criminal conviction. Often states won’t bother with this process for minor misdemeanors, but this is not always the case.
Note that you may be able to avoid having to be detained for up to 30 days if you coordinate your surrender with the court that issued the warrant. This would require you to agree to transporting yourself across state lines and being present on the scheduled court date. These matters can be complicated, so it’s important to have an attorney on your side during this process.
Not all extraditions are legal in the United States. In fact, there are several defenses you can raise, which are typically done through the filing of what is known as a writ of habeas corpus.
Police are required to follow specific procedures when processing an extradition request. They must let you know what is going on, what the underlying charges against you are, and that you have the right to an attorney.
In addition, there are legal documents that must be filled out and signed by the proper individuals. This includes officials from the state where the arrest warrant was issued. As mentioned, in most cases, the request must be made by the Governor.
You may also have grounds for challenging the validity of the underlying warrant. Remember, a warrant must be based on probable cause. This means that if the police failed to offer sufficient evidence indicating that you likely committed the crime, the warrant would not be valid and could be thrown out or “quashed.”
As you can see, these matters can be complicated. Because of all of the legal requirements and how much is at stake, it’s best to reach out to a criminal defense attorney. A qualified lawyer knows how to respond to an invalid warrant, as wells as how to coordinate your surrender and put together a strong legal defense to your charges.