Criminal Law

What Happens When You Face Out of State Criminal Charges?

Key Takeaways:

  • If you are arrested and charged in another state, the court will expect you to show up to face the charges. 
  • Another state can issue an out-of-state warrant to extradite you to the state to face criminal charges.
  • You may be able to have a local attorney appear on your behalf so you don’t have to travel to the state.

Facing any kind of criminal charge can be difficult to manage. However, if you are arrested and charged with a crime in a state that is not your permanent residence, it might be even more difficult to search for an attorney and mount an adequate defense. The court still expects you to show up to court even if you live in a different state.

Criminal laws can vary by state. It is important to make sure you have a criminal defense lawyer who understands the state laws where you are being charged.

What Happens When You Commit a Crime in a Different State?

The state where the alleged crime occurred is the state that has jurisdiction to prosecute the offense. For example, if you live in California but you are arrested for a DUI in Florida, Florida has the right to prosecute you for that criminal offense under Florida law.

Handling your legal case in another state can be difficult. You may have to stick around to go to any court proceedings, including the arraignment, criminal trial, and sentencing. The process of going through the criminal court system often requires the defendant to be present for court appearances.

It can be costly to travel between states just to show up for all the court hearings. You may run into conflicts between your court obligations in the state where you are facing charges and your life back home.

In some cases, your lawyer can appear on your behalf so you don’t have to be there in person. Your attorney may also be able to arrange for you to appear remotely by phone or on video. However, for serious crimes, law enforcement might keep you in custody until the criminal case is over.

What Happens When a Crime Happens Across State Lines?

When criminal activity involves crossing different states, the federal government can have jurisdiction. Criminal jurisdiction under federal law includes crimes that cross state lines or affect interstate commerce.

For example, if you are accused of selling drugs within the state, then you will likely face charges in state court. However, if you transport illegal drugs across state lines, then you could face felony charges in federal court.

Can You Leave the State While Under Investigation?

After you are charged with a crime in another state, returning home after your arrest may not be simple. You can’t just return home and ignore the charges against you. Some states allow for a longer time to charge or prosecute the crime if you try to avoid prosecution by leaving the state.

If you do return to your home state to avoid prosecution, your home state may send you back. The U.S. Constitution requires other states to produce suspects at the request of another state with an out-of-state warrant. This is commonly referred to as extradition.

How States Handle Out-of-State Defendants

The severity of your criminal charges can be a factor in determining your out-of-state criminal process. Most states have two broad categories to classify criminal offenses as felonies or misdemeanors.

A felony is generally for more serious or violent offenses and is punishable by more than a year in prison. Misdemeanors are usually for less serious offenses and penalties include fines and up to a year in jail. States also have lower levels of offenses as violations or infractions. These aren’t crimes and are generally for offenses involving traffic or parking tickets.

Every state uses its own specific classification system. Some states break down these categories even further into degrees or classes. States treat each classification differently, having a different process and associated penalties.

If you’re not sure what kinds of charges and penalties you may be facing, talk to a local defense attorney. They will be able to explain the local criminal justice system and likely be familiar with the prosecutor handling your case.

Can You Leave the State If You Are Facing a Felony?

Bail is generally required for out-of-state defendants charged with a felony offense. Once you post bail and you appear as required, most courts refund the bail amount paid. If you don’t show up on the court date, the court may issue an arrest warrant. You may also lose any bail money you put up if you don’t appear.

You may be able to leave the state, but you will have to make your court appearances to defend against your criminal charges. A defense attorney familiar with the local legal system will be able to tell you about whether you can leave the state.

If you are convicted of a felony in another state, you’ll end up with a criminal record. The charge might follow you in the future and may have implications for future employment or other legal proceedings. After a conviction, it typically becomes part of the public record in that state, and anyone searching for it may find your criminal history. Working with an attorney can help you avoid any unwanted complications.

Can You Leave the State for Misdemeanor Charges?

If you are facing misdemeanor charges, you can generally have a local attorney appear on your behalf. You may not have to travel back and forth between states for every appearance. Talk to your criminal defense lawyer about your options so you don’t have to show up in person.

Can You Leave the State After a Violation or Infraction?

You can usually pay traffic tickets online or through the mail. It will usually be cheaper and easier to pay an out-of-state traffic ticket than to fight it. However, if you want to fight the ticket, you should consult with a local attorney.

For answers about your specific situation, contact a local criminal defense attorney for legal advice.

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