An arrest warrant is a type of official court document that is issued by a criminal law judge or magistrate. An arrest warrant allows for law enforcement officials to arrest an individual who is accused of committing a crime. Once you have been arrested, you may be taken into police custody.

An out-of-state arrest warrant is an arrest warrant that was issued by a criminal law judge or magistrate in a state that is different from where the individual lives or is arrested. Typically, a valid arrest warrant allows for an arrest to be made anywhere in the United States. If an arrest warrant was issued weeks or months in the past, it is sometimes called an outstanding warrant.

Usually, a person will not be notified if there has been an out-of-state arrest warrant issued for their arrest. However, some states allow an individual to conduct a search to see if a warrant has been issued for their arrest. This arrest warrant information may be made available on an official “warrant look-up” website. Sometimes information about out-of-state arrest warrants can also be found on third-party websites.

If a valid out-of-state arrest warrant is issued for your arrest, you may be arrested at any time and in any location.

How is an Out-of-State Arrest Warrant Issued?

An out-of-state arrest warrant is usually issued by following the same process as an in-state arrest warrant. Both types of warrants are issued in similar situations and for similar reasons.

An out-of-state arrest warrant is typically issued in the following situations:

  • A failure to appear in court or failure to attend jury duty (sometimes this is called a bench warrant);
  • A person has violated the terms of their probation;
  • A person owes outstanding court fines or failed to pay child support; or
  • A person is accused of committing a felony crime (a felony warrant may be issued).

In order for an out-of-state arrest warrant to be issued, law enforcement officials need to have probable cause (or proof) that an individual committed a crime. This probable cause information is then presented to a criminal law judge who will either issue the arrest warrant or deny the arrest warrant. If an arrest warrant is denied, it is typically because there is not enough evidence to show that a person committed a crime.

After the out-of-state arrest warrant is issued, the warrant information is entered into local law enforcement systems and national databases. This means that an arrest warrant that is issued in California may be viewed by law enforcement officials in New York. The out-of-state arrest warrant will typically contain details about the crime and a description of the individual accused of committing the crime.

An arrest warrant that does not contain the name of the individual accused of committing a crime is called a John Doe warrant. John Doe or Jane Doe warrants are typically not valid outside of the state where the crime was committed. An out-of-state arrest warrant must usually contain an individual’s name.    

If an arrest warrant is issued because you owe outstanding court fines or back child support, you may be able to get rid of the arrest warrant by contacting the court and paying the money that is owed.

If I Am Arrested on an Out-of-State Arrest Warrant, Where Will My Case Be Held?

Typically, your criminal case will only be processed in the state where the crime was committed and the state where the arrest warrant was issued.

If you were arrested in a different state from where your arrest warrant was issued, you may be returned to the state where the crime was committed and the arrest warrant was issued. This is a criminal process called extradition.

The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act allows for the arrest extradition of an individual in any state who is accused of a crime with a penalty of at least one year in jail. Typically, extradition is most common when a person is accused of committing a felony such as murder. A person who is facing extradition to another state will have the opportunity to have a court hearing called an extradition hearing.

International extradition is extradition to a different country rather than extradition to a different state. This type of extradition is less common than state extradition and typically occurs when the individual accused of committing a crime is not a United States citizen.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with an Out-of-State Arrest Warrant Issue?

While you may be able to handle your out-of-state arrest warrant on your own and be able to defend yourself against your criminal charges, the process is very complicated and there are many court hearings involved. For the best outcome, you may contact a criminal defense attorney who will be able to explain your rights and defenses to you and represent you in court.