Having a warrant in your name sucks big time, be it an arrest warrant or even a bench warrant. Not only does it make going out in public extremely stressful, but it can also limit your activities and interactions. So, is flying one of those activities that warrants can hinder?
Well, you’ll see the answer in a bit, as well as all the other details you need to know when going into an airport with a warrant. So keep reading and see if you should start booking or canceling your next flight.
Do Airports Check for Warrants?
Well, no. That’s not really their job.
Don’t let the uniform fool you, but airport security is NOT the police. It’s not within their job description to arrest wanted people and enforce the law in any other way. They’re just there to prevent terror threats and the like.
That being so, they’ll only be on the lookout for concealed weapons, bombs, drugs, or any other illegal items, and if they find any on your person, then you’re looking at being detained and arrested. Otherwise, they’ll generally leave you alone, even if you have a warrant.
And it’s not just the security. Neither the personnel at the ticket counter nor the boarding agents have the means or even the time to look for a warrant. They just want to swipe your boarding pass and send you on your way.
So, no, airports don’t really check for warrants, and they don’t really have a way of knowing that you’ve got a warrant. However, in some cases, they may discover your wanted level and stop you from flying. How? Well, let’s see.
What Can Lead to Your Arrest at the Airport?
Getting into Trouble
Remember how I said that airport security is here to prevent and stop any threats? Well, if you’re seen as a threat, you’ll be treated as such and ultimately apprehended.
Then, security will proceed to question you and search your history. As they’re searching, they’ll be sure to find the warrant in your name, leading them to alert law enforcement of your whereabouts so that they can come and arrest you.
Oh, and I don’t just mean terror-level threat. Any trouble you cause at the airport can lead to the same result. So, don’t even get in a fight while you’re there. Keep to yourself and keep out of trouble, and you’ll be okay.
For all of you worrywarts out there, no, the TSA scanning your ID or passport will lead to the discovery of the warrant in your name. The airport simply doesn’t have access to a database for warrants. However, if you forget to bring your ID/passport, that’s a different story.
If you don’t have your ID on you, the airport may then have you referred to the police so that they can perform a background check on you and confirm your identity. As such, it’s highly likely they’ll come across your warrant and detain you. So, always make sure to bring your ID and passport to avoid any run-ins with law enforcement.
Unfortunately, trouble and forgotten IDs are the only things that may lead to your arrest. There’s a one-in-a-million chance that you may be stopped by the police at the airport just because. If they happen to scan your ID and discover your warrant, they could detain you in the nearest local lockup until your next court date.
It’s likely that they may simply hold you in the airport until the jurisdiction from which the warrant was issued decides to come to take you or let you go. Typically, bench warrants or misdemeanor warrants can be blown off, while serious felony charges lead to an arrest. However, in both cases, you’ll end up missing your flight.
So, while it’s very unlikely that your warrant will lead to your arrest at the airport, it can still happen. Still, if the police have never stopped you in the airport before, you’ll probably be just fine.
Still, bad luck can still manifest itself in other ways. Say you’ve got a vengeful acquaintance who knows that you’ve got a warrant and also knows when you’ll be traveling. If they alert the police that you’ll be present at “x” airport at “x” date and time, then you’ll be kissing your flight goodbye.
So, what if you don’t want the stress of flying with a warrant? Is there anything you can do about it? Let’s have a look.
Can You Get Rid of Your Warrant Before Flying?
Thankfully, yes, though it may not work if you’re short on time.
Let me introduce you to the process of recalling warrants. Basically, recalling a warrant is when you cancel the judge’s authorization for your arrest. So, recalling your warrant will mean that law enforcement no longer has any reason to arrest you.
Still, that doesn’t mean that you’re scot-free. You’ll still be obliged to appeal in court and make amends for whatever you did. However, that can be done at a later time, leaving you to fly at ease without the constant fear of getting arrested at any time.
So, if you can recall the warrant before your flight date comes, make sure to do so and spare yourself the stress while boarding and disembarking.
How Do You Recall a Warrant?
If you’ve recently found out that you have a warrant, then the first thing that you should do is contact a skilled lawyer to have him recall the warrant.
You’ll start by explaining why you got the warrant and the whole situation behind it. You should also give your lawyer any related documents to make sure everything is as clear as can be.
Once all is good with the lawyer, he’ll put in a motion to quash the warrant, which is a fancy way of telling the judge why he should reverse his judgment.
Essentially, he’ll explain to the judge why you’ve failed to do what you were instructed to do, be it attending a court date or paying a ticket. He’ll also show the judge that you’re taking your charges seriously, which is sometimes all that the judge needs to recall the warrant.
Keep in mind that you may have to go with your lawyer to the court, but that’s usually for felony arrest warrants. Bench and misdemeanor warrants are generally more lenient, only requiring your lawyer to be present.
Nevertheless, whichever type of warrant you have, you’ll be required to redeem yourself.
That can be by posting bail or completing the action that resulted in the warrant. The latter could entail things like paying tickets, making a court appearance or showing proof that you’re fulfilling your court-ordered program/counseling.
Whatever it may be, just do it, and you’ll be worry-free on your next flight.
How Much Time Does It Take to Recall a Warrant?
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long. In most cases, your lawyer should be able to recall your warrant in about a week.
Once he drafts the motion to quash the warrant and files it with the appropriate court, you should be getting the result after seven business days, give or take.
Why seven days? That’s typically the average time a judge takes to review your case and come to a decision about recalling the warrant, but, of course, it can take longer or shorter depending on the complexity of your case and where you reside.
Does the Warrant Level Lead to a Different Result?
Well, it’s complicated. Now, the more wanted you are, the more it’s probable that you’ll be found and arrested at the airport. However, it’s not the warrant that gives you away. It’s the security camera and on-scene law enforcement.
Honestly, if you’re a serious offender, then law enforcement is already hard on your heels, and they probably know that you’re making plans to travel. Accordingly, the airport will just end up just being your arrest scene, so, yeah, I wouldn’t try traveling if I was in your shoes.
Domestic vs. International Flights: Is There a Difference?
To cut a long story short, domestic flights aren’t really forbidden for warrant-holders, but they’re a bit risky.
This means that as long as you stay out of trouble and don’t nab the attention of the police, you should be okay. As we said, airport employees neither have the time nor ability to run a background check on all their passengers, meaning you’ll be just another passenger with an outstanding record that needs to get on his way.
On the other hand, international flights can be a bit of a hassle. While it isn’t exactly illegal to travel abroad when you’ve got a warrant, your ability to fly internationally can be taken away in certain cases.
How? By taking your passport. As you know, you need a passport to travel internationally, and if you’ve been found to commit certain crimes, the authorities have the right to revoke your passport.
This is what happens for people convicted of international drug trafficking or even ones still on trial. The same applies to people with federal arrest warrants of any kind. Quite simply, if you have a court order, parole, or probation that forbids you from having a passport, then you can’t fly internationally, warrant or not.
So, in short, you may be able to fly internationally with a warrant, but lying about your criminal/warrant status when applying for or renewing your passport will put you in even worse trouble with the law. This is especially true when considering the fact you’ll be falsely filling out Form DS-11, which attests that you have no pending warrants.
So, be truthful and try to get your warrant recalled if you can. If that’s not possible, then leave it up to the fates and see where that takes you.
Will Flying With a Warrant Get You Caught?
Let me make this clear. The actual act of flying with a warrant won’t get you arrested. It’s having a warrant in and of itself that may lead to you being arrested.
Let me explain.
Assuming you’re a pretty well-known criminal, say a certain airport employee happened to know that you have a warrant for your arrest, and he spotted you in the airport. What will he do?
Well, he’ll call the police and have them arrest you, assuming they make it before your flight departs. However, having a warrant is the thing that led to your arrest, not the fact that you were trying to fly while in possession of one.
The same can be said if an air marshal happens to learn of your warrant while flying in the same plane. Again, he can arrange for the police to arrest you once you land, but it’s the warrant that got you in trouble, not flying with one.
On the other side of the spectrum, if you’ve tried to travel despite the court telling you not to, you’ll be immediately arrested for breaking the court’s order, with or without a warrant.
To sum it up, flying with a warrant isn’t illegal, and most of the time, you can board a plane and get to your destination with no hassle.
As we said, airports don’t and won’t check for warrants when dealing with any passenger. However, there are certain instances that may lead to the discovery of warrants, such as aggravating the TSA, forgetting your ID, or a vengeful person hoping for your arrest.
You may also just be unlucky enough to catch the attention of the police for no reason. However, that’s highly unlikely to happen unless you’ve got a suspicious-looking face.
So, fly at your own risk, but it’s always best to recall or settle a warrant before you do so.