An arrest occurs when you have been taken into police or law enforcement custody, and are no longer free to walk away. The United States Constitution only authorizes arrests if the arresting entity has “probable cause” to believe that a crime was committed, and that the suspect is responsible. 

An arrest warrant is a type of official, court document that is issued by a criminal law judge or magistrate, and details the criminal charge as well as the name and description of the person who is sought for the crime listed. This warrant allows for law enforcement officials to arrest an individual who is accused of committing a crime.

Out of state arrest warrants are issued by a criminal law judge or magistrate in a different state than where the individual lives, or is arrested. Typically, a valid arrest warrant allows for an arrest to be made anywhere within the United States. 

Further, if an arrest warrant was issued weeks or months in the past, it is sometimes referred to as an outstanding warrant. Outstanding warrants are valid arrest warrants, because the person has not been arrested yet.

Generally, a person will not be notified if there has been an out of state warrant issued for their arrest. However, some states allow individuals to conduct a search in order to see if a warrant has been issued for their arrest. 

This information may be available on an official warrant look-up website provided by many jurisdictions. Warrant look-up websites are typically run by local law enforcement, meaning it only contains information regarding that specific county or city.

Can I Get a Driver’s License or a Job If I Have a Warrant in Another State?

The DMV, or Department of Motor Vehicles, consists of fifty agencies adhering to the individual laws of the fifty states. As such, some states allow their DMV to check for arrest warrants while many others will not. 

If you have a warrant in another state, then you will need to contact the DMV for both your home state and the state in which your warrant has been issued, in order to determine if you will be able to obtain a driver’s license in either state. However, most state DMVs do have ways of catching people with driving related warrants.

An example of this is New York’s DMV system. They are able to catch criminals through their photo IDs, because as soon as a person is photographed for a driver’s license or ID card, the photo is run through face recognition software and compares it to images already in the state’s database. 

In some other states, the DMV is made aware of traffic related warrants because of court reporting requirements. Once they have been notified, they will not allow the violator to obtain or renew a driver’s license, nor will they allow the violator to register a vehicle. This is also referred to as a DMV or driver’s license hold.

Your state’s DMV may learn of your out of state warrant through the Driver License Compact (DLC), and the National Driver Register (NDR). The DLC is an agreement between forty-five states; when a driver who has a license from one state is picked up in another state for serious traffic violations, the incident is reported to the driver’s home state DMV. The home state treats the offense as if it had been committed there as opposed to in another state. 

States belonging to the DLC also enforce driver’s license holds from other states. The NDR is a national database in which states report drivers who have lost their driving rights or been convicted of serious traffic violations. This prevents someone with a suspended driver’s license in one state from going to another in order to obtain a new license.

Typically, if there is a warrant out for your arrest, whether it be in state or out of state, you will not be able to obtain a new license until the warrant has been cleared. Depending on your local jurisdiction, when a warrant is issued for your arrest, your license may be suspended or revoked. Warrants will not show up on your criminal background check; however, they may show up in court record background searches. 

Thus, it may be possible to still secure employment with an active warrant, but it is important to remember that you may be arrested anywhere at any time, including while you are working. Your best course of action is to address the warrant immediately and follow through with any required steps to get the warrant cleared.

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

How a warrant is issued is not generally affected by whether it is in-state or out of state. Both types of warrants are issued in similar situations and for similar reasons. Some examples of why an out of state warrant is typically issued include:

  • Failure to appear in court for a traffic ticket, committing a crime, testifying as a witness in a court case, etc.;
  •  
  • Failure to attend jury duty (this is sometimes referred to as a bench warrant);
  •  
  • Violating the terms of your probation;
  •  
  • Owing outstanding court fines;
  •  
  • Failure to pay child support; or
  •  
  • Being accused of committing a felony crime, in which case a felony warrant may be issued instead.

In order for an out of state warrant to be issued, probable cause must be presented to a criminal law judge. The judge will either issue or deny the arrest warrant. Once the out of state arrest warrant has been approved and issued, the warrant information is entered into local law enforcement systems, as well as national databases. 

Arrest warrants that do not contain the name of the individual accused is referred to a John Doe warrants. This type of warrant is not typically valid outside of the state in which the crime was committed, as an out of state warrant must generally contain the name of the individual.

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 in which the crime was committed, and the state in which the warrant was issued. If you were arrested in a state different from the state in which the warrant was issued, you might be returned to the state in which the crime was committed and the arrest warrant was issued. This is referred to as 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. Extradition is typically most common in felony cases, such as murder. Someone facing extradition to another state will have the opportunity to have a court hearing, which is referred to as an extradition hearing.

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

It is possible to address an arrest warrant on your own by turning yourself in, or fulfilling the requirements, such as paying owed child support. However, the process is complicated, and out of state arrest warrants can be particularly confusing. 

You could face jail time, depending on the circumstances of the case, mainly what the arrest is for. A skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will help ensure you understand the process, as well as all applicable laws, and will represent you during the many court hearings involved.