Will the State of Florida Extradite Me?

– Pinellas County Extradition FAQ –

I have an outstanding Pinellas County warrant, but I reside in another state. Can I be arrested and extradited?

Yes. Each state honors their sister state’s warrants. The days of Bonnie and Clyde driving across state boundaries to avoid prosecution are long over. Flight to avoid prosecution is not effective as there is no longer any “safe haven.” Thus, it is very possible for a “Florida Warrant – Extradite Pinellas County” directive to be transmitted to local authorities if you are detained by out of state law enforcement. Today, if any law enforcement agency learns that you have an outstanding warrant from Pinellas county Florida, they are under an obligation to detain you or hold you in custody for the benefit of the Pinellas county court system. This authority originates from Article Four, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which directs every state to cooperate in the extradition of an individual “on demand” from another state. This power is codified in the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) which was passed in 1941. Florida Chapter 941 sets forth the “Uniform Extradition Act of Florida.” This act details the obligations of the Governor of each state to cooperate in the apprehension and transport of fugitives from justice.

I have an out of state warrant from Florida. Does that mean the police are searching for me?

Generally speaking, unless you are wanted in Florida for a serious violent felony, or for a theft or fraud involving large sums of money, the authorities are not going to be conducting an interstate search for you. Bottom line… you should not worry that there will be a knock at your door at 2:00 AM. However, this does not mean your “out of state” status has insulated you from capture and prosecution on the Florida warrant. To the contrary, out of state warrants are detected on a routine basis. The ready availability of criminal justice information has been furthered through the Internet and modern communication technology. The National Crime Information Center, or “NCIC” provides federal, state and local criminal justice agencies with 24 hour computerized access to information on fugitives and persons with outstanding warrants that have originated in all 50 states. In the “sunshine state,” the FDLE is charged with the responsibility of supplying warrant information to the NCIC system. ABC news recently reported that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that Florida had in excess of 325,000 outstanding warrants in the NCIC computer system.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department recently re-established its fugitive tracking unit. This specialized squad had been disbanded by our former sheriff during the economic downturn. The newly assigned detectives are charged with the responsibility of locating individuals with outstanding Pinellas County warrants. Our experience tells us that the search for fugitives includes people who are residing out of state. In fact, we are seeing situations where the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has “done the leg work” in locating a person who lives out of state and then secures the cooperation of the law enforcement agency in that jurisdiction to execute the outstanding Pinellas warrant. Such efforts will undoubtedly become more common as the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office attempts to placate negative public opinion regarding its current backlog of over 55,000 outstanding arrest warrants.

Can I be extradited for a misdemeanor?

As a general rule, you are not subject to extradition to Florida unless you are currently out of state and there is an active FELONY warrant, FELONY FAILURE TO APPEAR warrant or FELONY VIOLATION OF PROBATION warrant.

Technically, you could be extradited for a misdemeanor. However, extraditing someone on a misdemeanor warrant is very rare. This typically only occurs when law enforcement believes the individual is also a suspect for an unrelated serious violent felony offense. Thus, in these limited situations, their true reason to extradite the person back to Florida is completely unrelated to the misdemeanor warrant. Even though you may not subject to extradition for your active Pinellas County misdemeanor warrant, you failure to address this situation could have a negative impact on your job prospects, driver’s license status, and the ability to rent or purchase a home. Keep in mind that despite the fact that Florida is unlikely to extradite on an outstanding misdemeanor, you are nevertheless subject to being stopped and detained by out-of-state authorities. This could lead to both inconvenience or embarrassment. If you are returning to the United States from a foreign country and your first point of entry is a Florida harbor or airport, you will undoubtedly be arrested and transported to the Florida county where the misdemeanor warrant originates.

How could I be apprehended or caught on an out of state warrant?

Some individuals remain “on the lam” for years, while others are apprehended within days of the warrant’s issuance. The capture of someone on an out of state warrant typically takes place in common every day settings. It likewise often transpires at what seems like the worst possible time. The problem is that the person with an outstanding warrant has no way of predicting when they will be apprehended. In other words, you never know when the outstanding warrant will come back to bite you. The fortuitous detection of a warrant by law enforcement can also result in placing the individual in a highly embarrassing and very inconvenient position.

The criminal defense attorneys in our office have had clients who were apprehended on outstanding Florida warrants under the following scenarios:

  • Routine traffic stops;
  • Traffic accidents, regardless of which party was at fault;
  • Police officers routinely run license plates from their cruiser for “wants & warrants”;
  • Police responding to a home in connection with a noise complaint or report of a domestic argument or disturbance;
  • Background checks conducted in the course of applications for employment;
  • Credit checks;
  • Applying for a driver’s license or state issued identification card at the DMV;
  • Applying for an occupational license;
  • Disgruntled coworkers, friends or relatives who inform the local police about your warrant;
  • Anonymous tips phoned in to police departments;
  • A former girlfriend, boyfriend or significant other looking for revenge;
  • Crossing International borders between the United States and Canada or Mexico;
  • Arriving back in the United States on a cruise ship;
  • Arriving back in the United States on an International flight; or
  • The police make contact with you because you are the unknowing victim of a crime. For example, someone has backed into your vehicle at a restaurant and left the scene.

How long does an outstanding Florida arrest warrant or “bench warrant” remain active?

An outstanding Pinellas county Florida warrant will never expire. The warrant remains active and valid within the NCIC system indefinitely.

Prisoner Transport Vehicle

Individuals who are extradited from outside of Florida on outstanding Pinellas County fugitive warrants are often brought to our local jail in uncomfortable and cramped prisoner transport vehicles.

Aside from risking arrest on the outstanding Florida warrant, should I have other concerns?

  • Having to look over your shoulder all the time is no way to live. The uncertainty of a sudden and unexpected arrest is a stressful situation could interfere with a feeling of well-being. Being haunted by an outstanding warrant can lead to a poor quality of life;
  • If a prospective employer uses a third party investigatory service to conduct a criminal background check during your job application process, it is highly unlikely you will be selected for the position;
  • You run the risk of implicating family members or friends who could potentially be arrested for knowingly harboring a fugitive;
  • In some circumstances, an outstanding warrant will cause a suspension of your privilege to drive;
  • An outstanding warrant makes you ineligible to qualify for guaranteed student loans;
  • Applications for public financial assistance are routinely denied if a background check reveals an open warrant;
  • Many people who have qualified for Social Security Income or Social Security Disability payments are receiving correspondence from the federal government that an outstanding warrant has been uncovered. This same correspondence goes on to say that pursuant to federal law, their benefits will be immediately terminated until the warrant is cleared; or
  • United States passport applications are summarily denied when an outstanding warrant is discovered.

What are the disadvantages associated with getting picked up out of state on a Florida warrant?

cost risk benefit white dicePast clients who were picked up in another state on a Florida warrant have expressed a unanimous opinion that they wish they had taken a proactive approach and dealt with their outstanding warrant before they were apprehended. Most of these clients were forced to spend an unreasonable amount of time in their local jail awaiting Florida authorities to arrive for the purpose of transporting them back to Florida. They all complained about the discomfort they suffered, having been transported in handcuffs by bus or van. In many cases, they spent time in several correctional facilities before finally reaching their Pinellas County Jail destination. Often, their untimely arrests caused them to lose their jobs. In the greatest majority of cases, getting extradited translates into an individual spending more time in custody and in jail then had they resolved the outstanding warrant in another fashion.

How can I have a Pinellas County felony warrant removed from the FBI’s fugitive database?

A warrant can only be removed upon one of the following events:

  • The individual who is the subject of the warrant is apprehended by law enforcement, transported and formally booked into the Pinellas county jail; or
  • The individual who is the subject of the warrant voluntarily returns to Florida and surrenders themselves to the Pinellas County Jail.

There are occasions where our office can intervene on your behalf with the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office. Sometimes an effective strategy can be to pursue negotiations with the prosecutor that are designed to encourage a stipulation between the parties for the judge to withdraw the warrant. When an individual has moved on with their life and become a productive member of society, our argument to withdraw the warrant can be all the more persuasive.

Is my case a candidate for a lawyer to withdraw the warrant and avoid extradition?

The facts and circumstances of every case are unique. You should consult with us about your particular situation. Generally speaking, however, there are some characteristics that may make a case more suitable or appropriate for getting the warrant withdrawn and the charge resolved without the need for you to return to Florida:

  • Warrants that are associated with old cases;
  • Warrants that are associated with cases where the payment of outstanding financial obligations are of primary concern;
  • Warrants that are associated with cases in which the alleged criminal conduct is not aggravated in nature;
  • Warrants involving non-violent felony offenses; and
  • Warrants where the State of Florida has previously declined to extradite.

If I am arrested, detained or held in custody on an out of state warrant, what will happen?

police contactWhen a police officer learns that a Florida warrant exists for your arrest you will, in a technical sense, be “detained.” However, for all intents and purposes, your restraint of freedom will equate to having been “arrested.” It will be the job of the police officer to hold you until he is able to contact Florida authorities and thereafter determine two things:

  1. Whether the warrant is still active; and
  2. Whether the State of Florida is willing to pay the costs of the extradition.

To verify that a warrant is active, the police officer must contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, Warrants Section. This agency is operational 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. As a result, confirming the active nature of a warrant is not a time consuming task.

On the other hand, it can be more of a challenge for law enforcement to determine whether the State of Florida is prepared to pay the costs associated with extraditing you back to Pinellas County, Florida. To obtain this information, the police officer will need to contact the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office. It will be necessary for a senior Assistant State Attorney to locate your file for review before making such a determination. A delay might be caused if your case file has been transferred to their off-site warehouse storage facility. Likewise, the State Attorney’s Office is operational only on week days during regular business hours. So, if you are apprehended on a Friday evening, it will most likely not be until the following Monday, at the earliest, that contact with the State Attorney’s Office can be made. These factors will contribute to how long you will be held in custody until a decision regarding extradition can be received. While such a decision might be received within only a few hours, it can just as easily require several days or more.

How does the State of Florida decide who they will extradite back to Pinellas County?

The Pinellas county State Attorney’s Office answers this question on a case by case basis. A senior prosecutor will look at the severity of the criminal charge, whether there is a victim entitled to substantial restitution, the nature and type of sentence you are likely to receive if the prosecution is successful, your prior criminal record, and the cost of the extradition. (For example, it costs substantially more to extradite someone back to Florida from California then from Georgia.)

How long does Florida have to pick me up from the state where I was arrested?

The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act imposes a 30 day time limit on the State of Florida to physically extradite you. However, this time limit can be extended by a period of up to an additional 60 days, at the discretion of the court where yo are currently being held. If this time limitation is violated, you must be released from custody. However, keep in mind that being released, does not mean the warrant has gone away or that you can’t be extradited in the future, if you get picked up again on the warrant as it continues to remain outstanding. Note that the 30+60 day time limits only govern how long a sister state can hold you in custody (i.e., local jail) while it waits for Florida to carry out the extradition process.

What is the cost to extradite someone back to Florida?

florida money atty generalThe expenditures required to return an extradited individual back to Florida can vary greatly. The costs attributed to interstate extradition include armed security personnel, food and lodging. There is also a financial factor associated with the distance necessary to transport the individual. At times, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department will send its own deputies to transport the fugitive from an out of state jail facility to the Pinellas County Jail. On other occasions, they will hire private firms to perform this function. For example, since 1990, the TransCor Detainee & Prisoner Transportation Company has transferred over 1.2 million individuals from coast to coast. As a rough rule of thumb, the cost of extradition can typically run from $250 to several thousand dollars. Under Florida Statute Section 938.27 and Section 939.02, a Pinellas county Circuit court judge is empowered to order the individual to reimburse the state for all costs associated with the extradition process.

What will happen if the state of Florida elects not to extradite me?

Sometimes the NCIC will conveniently reflect “no extradition.” In other cases, it might reflect, “extradition only from southeastern states.” This fortuitous designation could enable the law enforcement officer to quickly release you. However, in many cases, an outstanding Florida warrant in the NCIC computer system will not reflect any extradition decision. In this more inconvenient circumstance, the police officer will need further direction from a senior Pinellas county prosecutor. If the prosecutor subsequently informs the law enforcement agency holding you that the state of Florida declines to pay the cost of extradition, then you must be released.

I was taken into custody on an outstanding Pinellas warrant, but Florida did not extradite me.
Does that mean that I won’t be arrested again, so long as I don’t return to the state of Florida?

If Florida declines to extradite you, the arrest warrant will continue to remain in full force and affect. In some cases, the NCIC computer gets updated to reflect “no extradition.” If you are fortunate enough to have that clerical notation entered into the system, it could make your next encounter with law enforcement go much more smoothly since your detention will be brief.

Unfortunately, many people are taken into custody multiple times, despite the fact that Florida has previously made the decision not to extradite. This is because the “no extradition” notation was never properly entered into the computer. Although they may eventually be released on each subsequent occasion, they will nevertheless be forced to endure the inconvenience and potential embarrassment each time a police officer discovers the active Florida warrant. In addition, just because Florida decided not to extradite you on one occasion, does not necessarily mean that Florida will never extradite you if you are subsequently re-apprehended. Changes in State Attorney personnel, prosecutorial policy, and the financial condition of Pinellas County could all play a factor at any given time. Many people make the mistake of believing that with the passage of time their warrant will just “go away”

If I am arrested on an outstanding Florida warrant, can I post a bond to be released from jail?

bail bonds gavel handcuffsThis is a somewhat complicated question. The answer is dependent on the nature of the underlying allegation that your warrant is associated with, as well as, the perceived power or “jurisdiction” of your local judge.

Warrants for New Felony Charges

If your Florida warrant is associated with a new felony charge for which you were never arrested, there will typically be a bond amount that was set by the Pinellas county circuit court judge at the time the warrant was issued. If you are arrested out of state on this type of Pinellas county Florida warrant, you should be able to post this bond amount to secure your release from the out of state jail. You may be able to post a cash bond or a surety bond by using the services of a licensed bondsman.

Warrants for Failure to Appear

If your warrant is associated with your “failure to appear” in court for a Pinellas county felony offense, there will typically be a bond amount set that ends with the number “13.” For example, your bond amount might be $5,013.00. This unusual amount represents a local Pinellas County court custom and practice that quickly identifies individuals who have failed to attend a mandatory court proceeding. If you are arrested out of state on this type of Pinellas county Florida warrant, you should be able to post this bond amount to secure your release from the out of state jail. You can post a cash bond or a surety bond by using the services of a licensed bondsman. However, a bondsman may express some concern or reluctance to post a bond for someone who has already displayed a disregard for their past court obligations. Your situation could be interpreted as carrying an additional “risk of flight.” Keep in mind that if the bondsman agrees to post your bond and you again “fail to appear” in court, the bondsman will suffer a substantial financial loss when the surety bond is forfeited or “estreated” by your judge. Hiring a Pinellas county criminal defense lawyer in advance of retaining the services of a bail bondsman can often be a persuasive and effective strategy. Few people would spend the money to retain a lawyer if it was their intention to subsequently fail to appear in court. For this reason, when a bail bondsman sees that an attorney has been retained on a case, he has a further assurance that his customer will meet future court obligations, despite the “failure to appear.”

Warrants for Felony Violations of Probation

If your warrant is associated with a violation of your felony probationary terms, the Pinellas judge most likely assigned a “no bond” status to your pick-up order. This means that you could be as wealthy as Donald Trump… and still not be able to secure your release from the out of state jail. In other words, no amount of money will be effective in successfully addressing your current incarceration.

Many people who are picked up on a Pinellas county felony violation of probation “no bond” warrant become understandably frustrated by their inability to post a bond. Their requests to have a local judge set a bond on their Florida charges are routinely and summarily denied. An overwhelming number of out of state judges will refuse to set a bond because they lack proper jurisdiction or the power to intervene in a pending criminal matter that originates outside of their state borders. Keep in mind that, although it is possible to have your Florida felony probation “supervision” transferred to another state, (via “courtesy supervision,) there exists no procedure in American jurisprudence to “transfer” the criminal prosecution itself. Thus, only a Pinellas county judge has the authority to modify your original sentence, terminate your probation, set a bond amount associated with your warrant or to withdraw the warrant.

Felony violations of probation can be filed for a wide variety of reasons. The criminal defense attorneys in our office can quickly secure the affidavit of violation of probation from your court file. This document will provide us with insight into the exact nature of the violation. The facts and circumstances of each case are unique and demand individualized attention and a coordinated strategy in resolving both the outstanding warrant and the probation violation.

What does it mean if I “waive extradition”?

Your arrest in another state came at the request of Florida authorities. Generally speaking, you were booked into jail on a “fugitive complaint” that was made against you. If you “waive extradition” you are admitting that you are in fact the person Florida was looking for and that you agree it is proper for the Florida authorities to transport you back to Pinellas County to face the pending charges. Waiving extradition does not mean that you are admitting the allegations, nor does it mean that you are giving up your right to a trial or evidentiary hearing to challenge the allegations. Many individuals who are held without bond waive extradition in an effort to speed up the process of being transported back to Florida to resolve their case. If you choose to waive extradition, you must sign a waiver in the presence of a judge. However, before you make this critical decision, it is imperative that you first speak with us.

Making the Decision

We would first want to review the points upon which your extradition might be successfully fought or challenged. A factor in this decision will be whether you have been able to post a bond or if you will be forced to remain in the jail pending the outcome of the extradition hearing. Prevailing in an extradition hearing would, of course, mean that you would not be forced to return to Florida to face prosecution.

Before you summarily waive extradition, keep in mind that challenging the extradition will require the Pinellas prosecutor to secure a “governor’s warrant.” This will necessitate more work for both the Pinellas State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Governor’s legal staff. Sometimes, we can use the potential financial cost and the man hours necessary to extradite you as leverage or a negotiating tool in our efforts to secure your release and to satisfactorily resolve your case without the need for you to return to Florida.

What if I want to fight or challenge the extradition?

Your out of state judge has a somewhat limited function in the extradition process since he lacks jurisdiction to review the criminal allegations pending against you and any defenses you might have. In other words, the judge cannot review the merits of the felony criminal charge or violation of probation. (The merits of the criminal charge or alleged violation of probation will only be addressed upon your return to the Pinellas county, Florida courtroom.)

  • When you challenge an extradition, it is the job of the judge in the “foreign state” to:
  • Determine if the extradition documents, including the “Florida Governor’s Warrant” are in proper order;
  • Ascertain whether you have been formally charged with a criminal offense;
  • Make a factual finding that you are, in fact, the person named in the extradition documents, and
  • Verify that you are a fugitive from Florida.

Awaiting an extradition hearing is almost always time consuming and normally translates into additional time spent in custody. Your legal defenses at the hearing are limited to mistaken identity and improper documentation provided by the Florida authorities.

I have an outstanding Pinellas County warrant, but don’t live in Florida. What should I do?

As you can see, an outstanding warrant from the State of Florida may very well make your life difficult and subject you to the constant threat of incarceration. On the other hand, if you’ve already been detained on the Florida warrant, the issue of extradition must now be dealt with.

You need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. We are former state prosecutors who only handle criminal matters arising out of Pinellas County, Florida. You should contact our office for a free consultation. We can determine the nature of the warrant, the intent of the State Attorney’s Office, and discuss with you your objectives and your options.

Call our office for a free consultation at (727)578-0303.

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