What Happens When You Face Out of State Criminal Charges?

Any kind of criminal charge can be difficult for the accused to manage.  However, if a person is arrested and charged with a crime in a state that is not his or her permanent residence then it might be even more difficult to mount an adequate defense.


The state in which the alleged crime occurred is the state that has jurisdiction to prosecute the offense.  So, for example if you live in New York and you are arrested for drunk driving in California then the state of California has the right to prosecute you for that offense.

This can lead to some very real logistical problems for the defendant.  The criminal process often requires the defendant to appear in court multiple times.  If the defendant has been released on bail or other terms pending trial then it can be burdensome to return to the state in which the defendant is tried every time a court appearance is required.

It is important to know that you cannot simply return to your home state and ignore the charges from the other state.  The states and territories of the United States are required by the U.S. Constitution to render suspects on the request of another state.  This is commonly referred to as extradition. 


Often, out of state residents who are arrested face misdemeanor charges such as driving while intoxicated or breach of the peace.  Many states allow the defendant to hire a local attorney who can appear for the defendant in most criminal proceedings.  That means that you would not have to bear the expense of traveling to the state in which the alleged misdemeanor occurred nor would you have to lose time from work in order to defend yourself. 

If you choose to allow your attorney to appear for you then it is important that you find someone whom you trust and that you stay in close contact with your attorney by telephone or e-mail so that you know exactly what is happening with your case.


If you are arrested for a felony then one of the first things that will happen is a bail hearing.  If the arrest happens in a state other than your home state then it is unlikely that the judge will release you on your own recognizance because you do not have strong ties to the community.  Instead, you will likely be required to post bail.  Bail is a kind of guarantee to the court that you will come back for further proceedings. 

While bail is often required for in state defendants, it is almost always required for out of state defendants.  If the defendant appears in court as required then the bail is refunded.  If the defendant does not appear as required then the bail is not returned to the defendant and the defendant is likely to be arrested and held in custody pending trial.

If you are convicted of a crime then in most circumstances the conviction becomes part of the public record.  Therefore, your out of state conviction might follow you if future employers or other parties are interested.  Thus, it is important to adhere to all of the rules in the jurisdiction in which you are charged and to work with a competent attorney for the best possible outcome.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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