LawRefs Customized Legal Information
Attorney Renee C. Walsh

What to do When there is an Arrest Warrant from Another State

Inquiry:

I lived in Michigan until Nov. 2007; then moved back to my home state. I found out that a warrant was issued in 2009 for something when I was not even in the state at that time. Everybody keeps telling me to turn myself in or hire an attorney. I have proof showing it wasn’t me but can’t afford an attorney or to turn myself in any help would be appreciated.

Response:

Hiring an attorney to get a copy of the complaint or indictment may be a starting point for someone in your position. An attorney could prepare a letter requesting said copy. This would not be more than an hour of attorney time, would be affordable and would provide valuable information upon which to proceed with implementing a plan.

Arrest warrants are issued by the courts authorizing police to take suspected criminals into custody and hold them until they can be brought to trial. A warrant must be based upon probable cause that a crime was committed and that the suspect committed it. “Probable cause” means that given all the facts and circumstances, a reasonable person would believe that the suspect committed the crime. If the magistrate agrees that there is probable cause that you committed the crime charged, the warrant is issued. If there is an indictment, in federal courts, and in some state courts, if the charge is a felony, the prosecution has to get a grand jury to find probably cause before it can proceed to trial. States that use indictments generally follow the federal rule.

An attorney could review the complaint – the written statement explaining the crime you’re suspected of committing and how you committed it, sworn under oath as to its truthfulness and accuracy – and assess whether the warrant complies with the Fourth Amendment in order to prevent a wrongful arrest.

The Fourth Amendment requires that an arrest warrant be specific, containing items such as: Suspect’s name or sufficient description to identify with reasonable certainty; description of the crime; a command that, as soon as possible, the suspect is arrested and brought before a magistrate or judge, and, the signature of the magistrate or judge who issued the warrant.

Generally, a valid warrant can be executed anywhere in the United States. Whether or not the arrest will occur, depends. In a situation where the suspect is in a state other than the issuing state and moved from the issuing state before the warrant was issued (and therefore has not fled the state), the suspect may be taken into custody, but it is unlikely that an arrest and extradition (MCL 780.22) would occur unless the crime is very serious such as murder or mayhem.

If the warrant is executed in the suspect’s arrest, the officer must present the warrant if he has it with him. If not, then he has to tell the suspect about the charges and the warrant, and has to present the warrant as soon as possible, if asked. An arrest can be made anywhere the suspect is found. If this is at home, generally, the officer is not allowed to burst into the home as he must comply with the Fourth Amendment’s knock and announce rule.

A suspect in another state can fight extradition where they are not properly charged in the state they will be returned to. In some situations, the suspect can argue they were not in the state at the time the crime occurred. The argument must impress the judge that the issuing judge did not have probable cause and therefore the warrant was improper.

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