Twenty-two-year-old Steven Ryan Ritchie of Bonaire, Ga., is facing charges of armed burglary, grand theft of a firearm and grand theft stemming from the burglary of a home in Santa Rosa Beach. Ritchie also faces fugitive warrant charges from the Cherokee County, Ga., Sheriff’s Office for vehicle theft charges, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, leaving a scene of an accident with injuries, resisting arrest with violence and grand theft auto after he drove a stolen 1999 Jeep Wrangler into a deputy’s patrol car at a gas station.
Many individuals, after having committed a criminal offense, leave the jurisdiction of the court where such crime has taken place, thinking that because they are in another state, that they are free, or the accused hides within the jurisdiction to escape prosecution. In either case, this action makes the individual a fugitive. A fugitive from justice who flees from one state to another may be subjected to extradition in the state to which he or she has fled. A person convicted or accused of a crime who hides from law enforcement in the state or flees across state lines to avoid arrest or punishment will be hunted many times by one of many law enforcement agencies who learn of the accused’s outstanding warrant from Florida.
Police from other states are obligated to detain or hold the accused in custody for the benefit of the court system of the state the warrant originated. This power is codified in the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) which was passed in 1941, as well as the Uniform Extradition and Rendition Act, which require a governor who receives a valid request for extradition to issue a warrant for the arrest and extradition of the fugitive. This authority originates from Article Four, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which directs every state to cooperate in the extradition of an individual “on demand” from another state.
Florida Statute 941 sets forth the “Uniform Extradition Act of Florida.” This act sets out the duties of the governor of each state to cooperate in the apprehension and transport of fugitives from justice. The governor can delegate the task of signing of the warrant, which is many times signed by an administrative officer or judge. An extradition warrant authorizes a law enforcement officer or a person to whom it is directed to arrest the fugitive at any time, any place where they may be found. An arrested fugitive is to be brought before a judge before transferring custody of them to an agent of the demanding state.
The effect of extradition warrants on crime is a decreased number of fugitives running from police. Unfortunately, many either are not aware of their fugitive status, or are not aware of the consequences of their movement out of the state, whether for fleeing from the court or just mere travel. What an accused should know is that there is typically no permanent escape from arrest, even if the accused runs to the next state or country.
Fugitive warrants are not only issued for serious crimes, but often for misdemeanor offenses, and carry far greater consequences than the accused previously faced, once filed.
Misdemeanors and felonies that are not considered capital crimes generally have a statute of limitations, a period of time after which a crime cannot be prosecuted if the person has not been charged. For example, a ten-year statute of limitation on tax debt means that a person cannot be charged with tax evasion more than ten years after their occurrence. Warrants, however, do not have a statute of limitations, so once a fugitive warrant has been issued, the limitation for the particular offense is suspended because the judicial system has met its requirement with the filing of charges.
There are currently 60 inter-agency fugitive task forces located throughout the United States, including seven congressionally funded regional fugitive task forces. These task forces, staffed by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, target the most dangerous fugitives. Through these fugitive task forces, communities are allegedly protected from criminals, and the rights of the accused are protected through the process of extradition.
While awaiting extradition, the accused will be required to sit in jail. However, an experienced Jacksonville warrants/extradition defense attorney can petition the court to temporarily withdraw the warrant so that one can be released from jail in the other state, and then voluntarily drive oneself to Florida to surrender directly to the court to resolve the case.
If one does nothing, one may be arrested when one least expects it, as a police officer will arrest one if he or she discovers the Jacksonville Arrest Warrant. If one is in a similar situation, one should obtain an experienced attorney to have the warrant or capias recalled and if the warrant is invalid, be able to show that warrant’s invalidity.