Can I Be Extradited From Utah for an Out-of-State Crime?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “the long arm of the law.”  It may be cliche, but it’s true: if a criminal suspect from one state is found in another state, law enforcement has the power to send the suspect back to the state where the crime was committed to face prosecution by the courts with jurisdiction.  This process is known as extradition, or being extradited.   Thanks to variations in state-by-state drug laws, this has become a common procedure for Utah.  If you’re facing extradition in Utah for a drug offense, the time to call a Salt Lake City drug defense lawyer is now — before it’s too late.

Will I Be Extradited?

Imagine that a Nevada resident commits a crime in Utah, then returns to Nevada.  Utah law enforcement can then come to Nevada and take the person back to Utah for criminal processing.  Because the crime occurred in Utah, the state of Utah retains the legal right to prosecute the defendant.

On the other hand, if a person commits a crime in their home state and then flees to Utah, then Utah may send the person back to face the justice system in his or her own state where the crime was allegedly committed.  Utah takes this legal duty very seriously, with the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure providing, under Section 77-30-2, that “it is the duty of the governor of this state to have arrested and delivered up to the executive authority of any other state… any person charged in that state with treason, felony or other crime who has fled from justice and is found in this state.”

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office adds, “It is the mission of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Warrants Unit to successfully pursue, locate and arrest wanted fugitives who are attempting to elude justice…  The Utah County Sheriff’s Office Warrant’s Unit is responsible for locating and arresting persons for whom arrest warrants have been issued throughout its jurisdiction.”

Of course, Utah is not the only state which takes extradition duties seriously.  If you are an out-of-state resident who committed a crime in Utah and then returned home, you need to be aware that if an officer in your state ever runs a check on your license plate, he or she will see that you have an outstanding warrant in Utah.  Once the officer is aware there’s a warrant out for your arrest, that officer has a legal obligation to bring you into custody, where you will be held until Utah officers can retrieve you.

It’s also important to understand that your arrest warrant will never go away.  While the statute of limitations places time limits on most legal matters, such as filing civil lawsuits or even prosecuting crimes, there is no statute of limitations on warrants for arrest.  A decades-old warrant has just as much power as a warrant from last week.

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Can They Arrest Me Without a Warrant?

Normally, arrests require that either (1) a police officer intervenes against a crime which is blatantly in progress, or (2) that the officer is acting on an arrest warrant, including bench warrants issued for failure to appear at court hearings.  However, Section 77-30-14 provides a special exception for making arrests without a warrant for alleged crimes involving extradition.

Section 77-30-14 states that a police officer or even a private citizen can make a perfectly lawful and valid arrest without a warrant “upon reasonable information that the accused stands charged in the courts of a state with a crime punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” That means no warrant is necessary if the crime is a felony (e.g. rape) and/or carries the possibility of capital punishment (e.g. aggravated or first-degree murder in some states).

However, the law also adds that in the event of a warrantless arrest, “the accused must be taken before a judge or magistrate with all practicable speed and complaint must be made against him under oath setting forth the ground for the arrest…”

In other words, criminal suspects who are to be extradited from Utah have a right to hear the formal charges, and to see a judge as soon as reasonably possible.

What Will Happen to My Felony? What About Misdemeanors?

Felonies and misdemeanors are handled differently in this context.

If the alleged crime was a misdemeanor, such as simple assault or DUI, depending on where you live you may be able to hire an attorney who practices in your state to handle the matter locally.  This will spare you the headache (and expense) of having to fly across the country and miss time from work for your court hearings.

However, if the alleged crime is a felony, the rules are stricter.  If you are an out-of-state defendant in a felony case, it is probable that you will be required to post bail in order to secure your return for your next court hearing.  The judge is highly unlikely to release you “on your own recognizance” (i.e. without bail), because being released “OR” generally requires proving that you have strong ties to the community — a missing factor for most out-of-state residents.

While extradition costs will initially be covered by the state treasury, if you are found guilty or plead guilty to the charges, you will have to pay the state back.

If there’s a warrant out for your arrest in Utah, you need to address the situation immediately.  Call out of state criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson (801) 758-2287 today to start exploring your legal options in a free and private consultation.