What Happens If You Get an Out of State Warrant for Arrest?

Doc Holliday is famous for many things, namely his involvement in the shoot-out at the OK Corral. What he is less famous for, is what has become known casually as “being Holliday’d” or the “Holiday law”. When living in one state, the governor of that state received a warrant and an extradition request for Doc Holliday due to crimes associated with the shootout. The governor then decided to press charges against Doc Holliday on a minor crime, simply in order to claim state jurisdiction such that he could not extradite Doc Holliday. Entertaining as the story of Doc Holliday is, it provides an example of an out-of-state warrant. 

Out of state arrest warrant versus regular bench warrant

An out-of-state warrant is a bench warrant, but one issued from a state other than the one in which the individual lives. A bench warrant is issued when a person does not show up for court. It is a legal document or summons which says an individual must appear in court. The warrant can also give law enforcement permission to take actions laid out in the warrant. 

Typically, a bench warrant is issued:

  1. After an individual who is required to show for court due to their arrest, but does not;
  2. After a witness who is required to go to court does not appear. In this case, the criminal defense lawyers or judge will send a bench warrant requiring their appearance.

In addition to a court appearance, a warrant may authorize police to:

  1. Search someone’s property. For instance, if there is a case against an individual in Oklahoma, but they own property in New York, the warrant can request a search of the New York property for objects related to the charges.
  2. Search a person or a location for objects or belongings related to a case evaluation. As an example, a lawyer might search for anything related to your defense.
  3. Arrest someone for a felony crime.

In contrast to a bench warrant, an arrest warrant is not a summons. Instead, it is a legal document that says law enforcement is attempting to arrest you. The arrest warrant is added to the FBI’s searchable database that is accessible by all police in the United States. 

For instance, if you are pulled over in California, and you have an arrest warrant issued in Indiana for assault, the police officers running your license for a regular traffic infraction in California will be able to see the open arrest warrant and will arrest you. Arrest warrants across state lines and are reserved for serious felony crimes. 

Even if you are not pulled over by an officer or arrested for a different infraction, having an arrest warrant out in another state can be accessed by many different organizations which conduct a background check, such as the DMV or a business with whom you are trying to get a job.

What is a bench warrant in another state?

bench warrant in another state

A bench warrant in another state is issued after lawyers have produced probable cause and convinced a judge that they have reason to believe that they will find something related to a case in your property or in a specific location, or that they have reason to believe you committed a crime for which they need to arrest you no matter where you live. The bench warrant is a requirement based on the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which does away with unreasonable searches or seizures. 

What happens when an out-of-state bench warrant is issued?

States differ when it comes to your rights and the process of issuing an arrest warrant. In some states, when law enforcement finds you and the out-of-state arrest warrant at the same time, they will take you immediately into custody in that state. 

Importantly, law enforcement is not permitted to cross state borders to arrest you as this is a violation of state jurisdiction. Every state has different rules that dictate what happens if their law enforcement arrests someone with an out-of-state warrant, and how they will go about transferring the individual due to the charges, or if they will transfer the individual at all. If law enforcement chooses to transfer the individual to the state where the warrant was issued, it is called extradition. 

The process of extradition is quite expensive and as such, generally reserved for felony crimes like human or drug trafficking, drug charges, or violent felony offenses. 

How will a warrant appear out of state?

If, for any reason, you are arrested in another state, the police will likely see the out-of-state warrant. If this happens, the state in which you were originally arrested will typically hold a court hearing wherein they prove you are the individual in the out-of-state warrant. The officer who arrested you must then inform you of why you are being taken into custody and why you are detained. There will then be a hearing where you have the legal opportunity to respond to the out-of-state warrant. 

If you prefer, you have the right to waive the extradition process and the hearing, and instead remain in jail for the entire process to see if the state which issued the arrest warrant will pay to extradite you. This process typically lasts 30 days.

Do I need an attorney for an out-of-state bench warrant?


If you have received an out-of-state arrest warrant, or have been arrested for one, consider speaking with a qualified criminal defense attorney who can review the warrant and your case and determine whether waiving the extradition process is the recommended next step. 

What is an out-of-state failure to appear warrant?

An out-of-state failure to appear warrant is the same as a bench warrant: you did not appear in court but you need to. This is slightly different than an arrest warrant, and again, differs based on the state where it was issued. For instance, some states or counties will issue a bench warrant that, in effect, simply states, “you need to come to court X for Y”. 

What is a misdemeanor bench warrant from out of state?

A misdemeanor bench warrant may be issued for something as simple as missing a court hearing for a traffic violation, or another misdemeanor. In other states, the misdemeanor bench warrant might be, instead, an arrest warrant which does not just say that you need to come to court, but instead indicates to law enforcement that an individual needs to arrested. This type of warrant is often reserved for felony cases. 

Final Thoughts

An arrest warrant from one state can be seen and acted upon in other states at a federal level. In contrast, out-of-state warrants for other reasons, like bench warrants, issued for misdemeanors or other minor infractions, may not show up on a federal database. If you are arrested based on an out-of-state arrest warrant, it is recommended that you consider speaking with an attorney as soon as possible.

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Legal Writer at Lawrina. Yevheniia browses through the most interesting and relevant news in the legal and legaltech world and collects them on Lawrina’s blog. Also, Yevheniia composes various how-to guides on legaltech, plus writes product articles and release notes for Loio, AI-powered contract review and drafting software.

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