Since the statutes governing DUI crimes are remarkably consistent across the country, DUI suspects generally face the same basic penalties no matter where their offense occurrs. Of course, they must deal with plenty of additional hurdles after an out-of-state arrest.
At first blush, these hurdles may appear serious enough to warrant flight. Every year, thousands of out-of-state drivers who can post bail after a DUI arrest flee the arresting jurisdictions and head home. Folks who make this risky decision essentially wager that they can avoid any further run-ins with the law.
Driving under the influence is a felony, and most DUI suspects who flee the state in which they were arrested are eventually caught. In fact, flight may deepen a DUI suspect’s legal woes: Once he or she fails to show up for the initial arraignment hearing, the local court usually issues an arrest warrant. Since most state police departments routinely share such information, this document will quickly circulate around the country.
State and local authorities are too busy to look for escaped DUI suspects on an active basis, but the arrest warrants that they issue generally remain in force indefinitely. As such, a single traffic stop in their home jurisdiction may be all it takes to bring a suspect to justice for a prior DUI offense.
Once it’s been determined that a re-arrested suspect has an out-of-state DUI warrant on their record, the arresting authorities will initiate extradition proceedings against them in a local court. This tends to be a formality: For serious offenses like DUIs, extradition requests are granted almost without exception. Once extradited to the jurisdiction in which their DUI arrest occurred, the suspect will answer to the original charge as well as any additional charges related to their decision to flee.
While nearly all extraditions are approved, there may be mitigating factors that encourage the jurisdiction in which the DUI occurred to waive its right to press charges in a local court. Geography is the biggest of these: As the physical distance between the two jurisdictions increases, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to send out a law enforcement team to retrieve the suspect.
In this case, the suspect’s home state may simply suspend their driver’s license as if the offense had occurred there. However, the suspect would almost certainly be jailed upon their return to the state in which the offense actually took place.