Having an open arrest warrant can make ordinary tasks feel daunting, and one of the most common concerns is the feasibility of air travel. Can you board a plane with an outstanding warrant? Will you be arrested at the airport? These are legitimate concerns. This guide provides a detailed look into the challenges and risks associated with flying when there’s an open arrest warrant in your name.

Understanding an open arrest warrant

First and foremost, an arrest warrant is issued by a judge or magistrate and authorizes law enforcement to arrest an individual linked to a crime. This can be for various reasons, including failing to appear in court, violating probation terms, or being suspected of a crime. Once issued, the warrant is typically entered into national databases accessible by law enforcement agencies across the country.

Air travel and security checks

  1. TSA’s Role – The primary objective of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is to ensure passenger safety by screening for threats like weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items. They do not actively search for individuals with arrest warrants.
  2. Identification Verification – While TSA does verify the identity of travelers against secure flight databases to manage risks, these databases focus on threats to civil aviation and national security, not arrest warrants.
  3. Connection with Law Enforcement – While TSA itself isn’t looking for warrants, if they encounter a situation requiring local law enforcement (like a dispute, suspicious behavior, or detected prohibited items), the police called to the scene may run your information and discover the warrant.

Risks at destination and origin airports

  1. Local Police & Warrant Checks – Larger airports often have a significant police presence. If you come into direct contact with them for any reason, there’s a possibility they might check for outstanding warrants.
  2. Flying to a Different Jurisdiction – If your warrant is issued in one state and you’re flying to another, it’s crucial to understand the nature of the warrant. Some are only enforceable within the issuing state, while others have broader jurisdiction.
  3. International Travel – Departing or arriving from international locations adds complexity. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will conduct checks, and an outstanding warrant could result in your arrest upon entering the U.S.

Consequences of being detected

  1. Immediate Arrest – The most direct consequence of being identified with an outstanding warrant is arrest by local or federal law enforcement.
  2. Extradition – If arrested outside the jurisdiction of the issuing warrant, you may face extradition, a process where one jurisdiction sends a person back to another for criminal processing.
  3. Travel Disruptions – Besides the immediate legal consequences, your travel plans, including return flights, accommodations, and commitments, could be severely disrupted.

Precautions and recommendations

  1. Seek Legal Advice – If you’re aware of an outstanding warrant, consult with a legal professional before making any travel plans. They can offer guidance tailored to your situation.
  2. Address the Warrant -: The best approach is to address and resolve the warrant. This might involve turning yourself in, posting bail, or appearing in court.
  3. Stay Informed – If choosing to travel, be aware of your rights and the processes at both your departure and arrival locations.

While it’s technically possible to board a flight with an open arrest warrant without TSA interference, risks abound. From local police presence at airports to CBP checks during international travel, the potential for arrest is real. It’s crucial to consult with a legal expert to understand your options and risks. If you have concerns or need guidance on this matter, contact a seasoned attorney like Robert M. Helfend at 800-834-6434.