How Long Can a State Hold an Individual With an Out-of-State Felony Warrant?

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In the United States, there are two major legislative references that establish the principles of interstate extradition: Article IV of the Constitution and the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act. The Extradition Clause of the Constitution specifically refers to felonies and other crimes, but the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act gets into more specifics. Although the Act provides extradition for misdemeanor crimes, quite a few states will choose not to arrest a suspect for whom a warrant is outstanding unless it is a felony offense.

Outstanding felony warrants issued by one state jurisdiction can be gleaned by law enforcement officers who obtain the information by means of query made through the National Crime Information Center database. Should an arrest be made, the detention time clock starts ticking and may be considered by a court of the felony state as time served. Even if the state making the arrest does not consider the suspect to be a danger to the community, interstate cooperation agreements create a tacit situation of expected reciprocity, but two states do not adhere to the aforementioned Uniform Act: Missouri and South Carolina.

Length of Out-of-State Detention

If the alleged felony charge was filed by federal prosecutors, the suspect can be transferred to a federal detention facility very quickly; in fact, the county or state jail may already be contracted for this purpose. In this case, the detention time can take as long as needed.

With regard to state felony warrants, it is up to the charging state to process the extradition, and it is generally understood that this can take about 30 days. The state holding the defendant may choose to accept extension requests for the purpose of getting extraditions approved through the courts, but their jurisdictional sovereignty also allows them to refuse extradition, at which point the defendant may be released. This scenario may call for compensation of the costs of keeping out-of-state defendants in custody.

A criminal defense attorney who learns that a client has been waiting more than a month for interstate extradition would certainly petition for a release. The holding state may start to worry about potential liability arising from extended detention of a defendant who has not been charged within the jurisdiction, particularly when the felony offense or defendant’s history do not indicate a risk to the community. Even if the defendant starts fighting the extradition process from the holding state, the staff at the detention facility and the local courts may decide to release for various reasons; in this case, they figure that the defendant can continue to argue against extradition from outside a jail cell.