Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 6, 2020

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When you have an out-of-state warrants for the offense of driving under the influence (DUI), you should seek the advice of an experienced DUI attorney. The DUI attorney you choose to hire should be licensed in the state in which you have the open warrant(s).

It’s not easy to predict what will happen when you have out-of-state warrants for a DUI or DWI as it depends on your personal criminal history. If you have no criminal history, it’s less likely that the consequences of out-of-state warrants will be extremely severe. If you have a significant criminal history, the state in which you have the warrants may engage in efforts to pursue you in the state in which you now reside. Be aware that if you return to the first state, the police have the right to take you into custody.

Your former state will likely communicate with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the second state. Afterward, the second state will probably revoke or suspend your driver’s license. Even if the first state does not communicate directly with the DMV in the second state, they will likely report the suspensions to the National Driver Register (NDR). This is a federal database created by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA). States check the NDR when they renew or issue a license. If the first state reports to the NDR that your license has been revoked or suspended due to a DUI or DWI, the second state will eventually find that information. The second state will then deny you a license in that state.  

You may not have a driver’s license for the second state because you may have retained your driver’s license from your former state. But know that when your former state revokes or suspends your driver’s license, you have lost the privilege to drive a motor vehicle. Driving on a suspended or revoked license is typically a criminal offense and you could be incarcerated or fined for this offense. Do not drive if your only driver’s license is revoked or suspended.

You can begin the process of resolving these issues by working with your attorney. Your goal is to appear less dangerous to your former state. Right now, with open warrants, and having left the state’s borders, you look like a person who does not want to face consequences. See if the court in the first state will allow you to appear through an attorney, it’s unlikely that they will grant this request. When it comes to DUI cases, many judges prefer that the defendant appear in person. It can help if you have obligations that prevent you from leaving the second state. Let your attorney know whether you have family, financial, military or work-related responsibilities that caused you to leave your former state before taking care of your DUI charge.

Now is the time to ask what you want to do with the DUI or DWI charge(s). Do you want to contest the DUI in hearings and perhaps go to trial? Alternatively, do you want to take a plea offer with the State? Work with your DUI attorney to figure out whether you will challenge or accept the State’s accusations. If you decide to go to trial, it’s quite unlikely that the judge will excuse you from being present at the trial. If you decide to take a plea offer, you will begin the process of paying off court costs, fines, traffic school, and any other penalties that will come from the DUI offense and from your having left the state with your DUI charge unresolved.

DUI cases are very fact-specific, so work with your DUI attorney to thoroughly review the facts in your case.