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What Happens if I’m Arrested in Florida, But Live Out-of-State?

Sometimes when folks are on vacation, they’ll tout the old adage, “What happens in _ stays in _!” Unfortunately, that’s not true for out-of-state residents arrested in Florida.

If you’re arrested in Florida, you can’t simply go back home and pretend as if you don’t have a pending criminal case against you. In fact, Article 4, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, known as the Interstate Extradition clause, requires that anyone charged with a felony or other crime who flees from justice and is found in another state SHALL - on the demand of the state where the alleged crime was committed - be delivered up and removed to the state where the crime occurred.

In other words, if you go home to another state after your Florida arrest and just never show up for required court appearances and fail to answer for the charges, the court will almost certainly issue a warrant for your arrest. That warrant can be enforced in your home state, and you’ll be extradited to Florida. Either way, you’ll have to face the music. Outcomes will almost always be better if you hire a local defense lawyer immediately and participate in the process from the start.

As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can explain, we have tens of millions of tourists streaming into the Sunshine State annually. There’s no statistic for how many of those run afoul of the law, but it’s not unheard of for visitors to get “popped” for crimes - especially alcohol or drug offenses, criminal traffic offenses, breach of peace/disorderly conduct, domestic violence, or trespassing. Note that you can be arrested and charged for doing something illegal in Florida that is perfectly lawful in your home state. (As it stands, marijuana offenses often have the greatest state-to-state disparities.)

The good news is that you probably can go home after your arrest - even if you’re arrested for a felony.

The Case Isn’t Over Just Because You’re Home

Bail is almost always required for Florida criminal defendants, with exceptions only for the most serious of offenses. That bail is an assurance that you’ll appear in court as required for the proceedings. If you show up when you’re supposed to, that bail ultimately gets refunded. However if you don’t appear, you forfeit that amount and may be arrested, extradited, and held in custody pending your trial.

Extradition is much more of a concern for felony defendants than those charged with misdemeanors. That’s because out-of-state residents charged with Florida misdemeanors usually have the option of hiring a local attorney who can then appear on their behalf for most of the criminal proceedings or any hearing in front of a judge. So while it’s technically possible to be extradited on a misdemeanor warrant, it’s pretty rare.

We recognize that hiring a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer probably wasn’t an expense you were expecting to incur when you planned your Florida trip, it’s almost certainly cheaper than traveling back-and-forth to your vacation destination to represent yourself every time there’s a court hearing in your case.

Felony case defendants can probably head home at some point after posting bail too. However, you may be subject to far more restrictions than misdemeanor defendants. When you hire a South Florida defense attorney right away, you’ll get valuable insight about whether you can leave, what is expected of you once you return home, and whether/how often you’ll need to return for court appearances.

Cases cannot be transferred back to your home jurisdiction simply because it’s more convenient for you. However, sometimes courts will allow authorities in the defendant’s home state to oversee penalties like alcohol monitoring, drug testing, probation, community service, etc.

Be aware that if you try to bury your past and avoid accountability after returning home, that out-of-state warrant will be constantly looming over your shoulder like a dark cloud. Some of the situations we’ve seen where an outstanding out-of-state warrant can come back to bite you:
  • During a routine traffic stop.
  • After a car accident - regardless of who was at-fault.
  • Domestic violence investigations.
  • Background checks for employment.
  • Credit checks.
  • Applying for a driver’s license.
  • Applying for an occupational license.
  • Applying for federal benefits, such as SSI or SSDI.
  • Anonymous tips.
  • Disgruntled exes, co-workers, friends or relatives who are aware of your warrant.
  • International border crossings.
  • Returning to the U.S. from a cruise ship or international flight.
That outstanding warrant is public record, and as such, it will be widely available and discoverable. The last thing you probably want is for this old Florida criminal case to come roaring back into your life when you least expect it. It’s always better to deal with it upfront. We can help.

Unique Legal Challenges for Florida Criminal Defendants Living Out-of-State

There are a number of extra challenges non-Florida residents face when navigating our justice system as criminal defendants. Among those:
  • Lack of familiarity with local laws. Of course, most Florida residents aren’t closely familiar with the particulars of every law, but they may have more than a baseline understanding. This chasm is more substantial for foreign nationals.
  • Language barriers. Here again, this is more commonly an issue for foreign nationals (though 27 percent of Floridian adults speak a language besides English at home). Since 2006, Florida courts have required certified interpreters to be present in criminal cases to help defendants understand what is happening so that they are not deprived of their fundamental right to participate in their own defense.
  • Logistical challenges to attend court appearances. The process of traveling back and forth to Florida may be logistically taxing for defendants who live out-of-state. As previously mentioned, those facing misdemeanor charges can usually count on their attorney to appear on their behalf. Courts have increasingly allowed for video conferencing where one’s physical appearance in the courtroom isn’t strictly required. Your defense lawyer can outline your options.

At The Ansara Law Firm, we regularly represent out-of-state defendants arrested in Florida. We can help guide you through the complexities and will fiercely advocate for the best possible outcome on your behalf.

If you have been arrested in South Florida, call The Ansara Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.

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