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How long does an arrest warrant stay active?

Updated July 19, 2017

An arrest warrant is a document ordering police to arrest and detain a person. A warrant is affected by multiple variables depending on the crime, issuing state and previous record of the offender. Misdemeanours are restricted to states. Felony crimes cross state borders. A warrant lasts in the system indefinitely, although it can be dropped due to lack of information on a case.

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An arrest warrant is issued by a local criminal court to force the accused person to appear and be charged. The warrant orders one or many police officers to bring the accused to the county that issued the warrant. Police officers perform a background search when any legal infraction occurs, such as a traffic accident or violation.


When a warrant is served, the accused is detained or must turn themselves in. The defendant is either sent to jail or must meet the bail that is set. Once the accused is brought to the issuing county he then must appear for an arraignment. At an arraignment the defendant is formally charged with the crime he is accused. The defendant then states a plea.

Time Frame

The time frame for misdemeanour offences is different depending on the state. An arrest warrant expires after 180 in Indiana. This means that the warrant must be reissued by the original court that issued it. If it is not reissued due to lack of evidence, then the charges are dropped. A felony charge does not expire, but can be revoked due to lack of evidence or information. The warrant is in place until the accused is obtained.


To avoid further complications, a person should turn himself in. Contacting a bonding company before will avoid jail time. The bond company will provide bail if arrested, therefore eliminating the booking process. The bondsman will add fees to the bail, in the end costing more money as a trade-off for avoiding jail time.


A person may not be aware the warrant is in place until he is detained for another infraction, such as traffic violations. Police officers have authority to detain the accused regardless. If the accused does not allow a police officer to enter into the premises of their home or a third party, police may use force to enter the building. The officer must give adequate warning he plans to detain the accused. This may happen at any time, day or night.

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About the Author

Katherine Peach

Based in Los Angeles, Katherine Peach has worked as a freelance writer since 2007. Her recent work has appeared in the "Malibu Times," "Santa Monica Mirror" and "Kalamazoo Gazette." She also writes the blog Peach in Place. Subjects of interest are sustainability, music, health and politics. Peach received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and Spanish from Western Michigan University.

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