Can someone fly internationally with a bench warrant?
April 2, 2006 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I wish to take a business trip to Japan next week and I wish to take my new girlfriend. She tells me shes afraid to go because she has a bench warrant out for her. if I take her to the airport will they check this and arrest her?

I am a 40 ish white male. I met a girl and we began dating 2 months ago. I have a business trip to Japan in apx 2 weeks and would like to take her for the experience of a diffrent culture. She told me the other day she wont go becasue she has a bench warrant from a prev boyfriend that accused her of theft by deception or something. She failed to appear as she was never served.

I told her as soon as I/we get back I will help get her an attorney and address this matter. however I simply do not have the time to do this right now.


Look, no one is trying to run away here. I will get her an attorney when I return. Can anyone please tell me if she can fly with this bench warrant??

Also, how about flying domestic flights, or amtrak? Any insight as in to how all this works is sought!
posted by geengi to Law & Government (24 answers total)
dude, no reason to yell. I'd get it taken care of first, if only to avoid the whole DHS ambiguous arrest question. There have been some similar questions and the IAAL answers are always "you could very well get busted."

And more inside is your friend.
posted by jmgorman at 7:58 AM on April 2, 2006

[moved more to inside]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:59 AM on April 2, 2006

Yeah, calm down on the caps. I think it's highly probably that if they run through your gf's passport through security or customs that any information regarding outstanding warrants will most definitely make their appearance.

You (and now we) know that she is not fleeing the country. Unfortunately, telling that to airport security may not illicit the same understanding. Get it taken care of first in order to avoid any problems on your business trip.
posted by purephase at 8:02 AM on April 2, 2006

Isn't this the type of question that would best be addressed to the airline in question? Call from a payphone if you're feeling paranoid, but seriously, I can't imagine they'd bother to lie to you about this.

My guess is that there's 0 chance of it getting picked up when you check in, and some chance of it getting picked up when her passport is scaned upon her return.
posted by tiamat at 8:03 AM on April 2, 2006

What is a bench warrant? How is it different from other warrants?
My guess is it will show up. The airline will request a driver's license and passport when u check in.
posted by GoodJob! at 8:05 AM on April 2, 2006

Bad idea.

She does know that if she takes the risk of driving a car, and she gets pulled over and the cop runs her license, that she can be arrested on the spot if she does, in fact, have an outstanding warrant? (Local laws, level of offense, etc etc depending - IANAL but I used to work for a law enforcement agency and know a fair amount about the databases used to track such warrants). In Texas, they will pick you up if you have a warrant and you go to renew your driver's license. You don't have to leave the country to risk severe inconvenience from an outstanding warrant.

I highly recommend not taking the risk. But you should really talk to a lawyer.

And I am befuddled as to how she knows she has a warrant wihout ever having been served. That doesn't seem to compute.
posted by beth at 8:31 AM on April 2, 2006

A bench warrant is issued by a judge, rather than the police or other law enforcement agencies. Generally means there's nobody out there actively looking for her, but if they happen across her (in, say, a passport check at immigration) she can be arrested.

Personally I wouldn't risk it. I doubt the airline will care at all; it'd be going through immigration on return to the US that she'd be most likely to get snagged.

(Though something about her story sounds sketchy; if she was "never served" then how does she know there's a warrant in the first place? Usually a bench warrant is issued because of failing to appear in court, not the other way around.)
posted by ook at 8:37 AM on April 2, 2006

I don't understand why your girlfriend can't tackle this problem herself; in your question, you say, "I will help get her an attorney and address this matter. however I simply do not have the time to do this right now.... I will get her an attorney when I return."

Does she have some sort of incapacity or mental deficiency that prevents her from dealing with this herself, and requires you to handle this for her?

I ask this, because getting a bench warrant recalled is generally a fairly simple matter. Usually, it's enough to show up in court and explain why the defendant missed the prior court appearance---the warrant is recalled, and a new court date is set. Under some circumstances, the defendant may be taken into custody and bond set, but the defendant can be released almost immediately upon posting a bond.

Assuming your girlfriend is a competent adult, she ought to be able to retain an attorney and get this taken care of before you leave for Japan--even if you're too busy to get involved.
posted by jayder at 9:02 AM on April 2, 2006

A failure to appear generally just adds to the assessed fines. But its a stupid thing to do because it goes into the record and makes people look like flakes and judges are really, really tired of dealing with flakes, fakes and idiots.

As noted above, she knows she could get pulled over and cited. Not sure if they'd arrest her on the spot or not, depends on the charge.

But flying would probably not be a great idea. International borders and such. Better to deal with this before you go.

Anyway, does she have a passport?
posted by fenriq at 9:39 AM on April 2, 2006

ook, with all due respect, major airlines @ airport check ins now have computer programs designed to catch and assess threat levels on all passengers. Those programs have direct links to government agencies at all levels. One of the programs is called CAPPS II. So it's likely she'll get flagged before she even enters security and long before she enters processing at Customs/Immigration.
posted by GoodJob! at 10:01 AM on April 2, 2006

The only type of warrants that show up in NCIC are felony warrants. If, however, the warrant originated in the state from which she is leaving, the screeners may have access to that state's law enforcement data system, in which case the warrant will show up there.

Do you know this woman well enough to be sure that it's just a bench warrant due to a "misunderstanding" with a previous bf? Some unsolicitated advise--leave her here until you get the legal stuff sorted out. (Theft by deception? You want to take this person with you without even knowing what that's about???)
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:06 AM on April 2, 2006

GoodJob, with all due respect, for someone who didn't even know the difference between a bench warrant and a regular one, you're sounding awfully sure of your statements. Exactly what data is and isn't available to the CAPPS program is kept secret from mere mortals like you and I, so it's possible you're right and she won't even make it through preflight screening. A failure-to-appear bench warrant is a relatively minor thing, though, so if we accept that CAPPS hasn't totally blown past its original mandate (which it will; it's already been expanded from "foreign terrorism" to a fuzzily-defined "domestic terrorism" to screening for violent criminals and those "flouting immigration laws"... but it doesn't cover any and every minor infraction. Yet.) I'd gamble that this wouldn't be an issue until she hits immigration. And possibly not even then, but the odds on that gamble I personally wouldn't take.
posted by ook at 11:13 AM on April 2, 2006

I was just on the phone with my brother-in-law who is a lawyer (but not your lawyer, etc.) and he said he wouldn't advise a client to risk it, particularly as the story sounds a little weird to him, too (how does she know about the warrant if she was never served? what's "theft by deception"?).
posted by scody at 11:22 AM on April 2, 2006

Yes, the story is more than a little weird. Sounds like the girlfriend can't take care of herself---getting warrants issued for her, even if it's just a "misunderstanding," is a clue that she's a mess; then the fact that she can't hire a lawyer to resolve her own problem, but relies upon the boyfriend to do it for her ... it all speaks volumes.
posted by jayder at 1:05 PM on April 2, 2006

I agree with those who guess the difficulty would be in returning through U.S. Customs, and I wouldn't recommend risking it. I wound up on the flag list, or I strongly suspect so anyway. Long story, got randomed after an international flight a few years back. I was sweaty, shaky, and really needed a cigarette. Heated words ensued as the limited time to get to the smoking cave ticked away... I had another 4 hour flight ahead of me. Now every time I fly, it's a problem. With international flights, I can tell you that my delay is never in leaving but rather in coming back.
posted by rollbiz at 1:56 PM on April 2, 2006

a differnt angle, could this be a story she made up to avoid going to Japan? Perhaps she is afraid of flying, afraid of traveling to a forgin/non english country... or something along these lines?
As others have mentioned there is a disconnect somewhere in the story. Perhaps it is a simple as the ex. claiming there is a warrent out on her when in reality there is not. All the way to something really messy and entirely her fault. You are missing some aspect to the story and someone along the line is lieing for some reason, it is hard to asses the situation in this scenario.
1) Find the truth
2) Figure out what you are going to do about it
2.1) Allow room for her to take some responibility for the situation if need be. It is right and proper we help people, especialy ones we care about, but this is a 2 month old relationship, there are many things the two of you don't know about one another still.
3) Proceed with caution, you will need to ballance the needs of at least two people.

Good luck
posted by edgeways at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2006

On rereading the question, I wonder if our confusion about her story has to do with the wording: She failed to appear as she was never served may mean she failed to appear in court for the theft-by-deception thing because she was never served the warrant for that appearance, or at least claims so... and therefore a bench warrant was issued (which she presumably found out about after the fact from the old boyfriend, or his lawyer.)

Still leaves a lot of loose ends, but makes more sense than the circular logic I thought was in play at first.

off-topic but vaguely amusing: "theft by deception" has its own website run by the income-tax-is-illegal crowd. In real life it appears to be a misdemeanor form of fraud in some states.
posted by ook at 2:52 PM on April 2, 2006

Theft By Deception sounds like a great name for a band.

Silliness aside, it really does sound kind of sketchy altogether. I would have to agree that there's a bigger chance of her getting caught on the way back in, but having said that, is there any legal ramifications for YOU, being the one travelling with her? I would look into that as well.

As for Amtrak, I'm pretty sure they don't check for a passport if you're just travelling internally. I know, however, that they DO check for ID on domestic flights in the states (there's some rich dude right now who is suing the government to be able to fly without showing ID, but we all know where that case is going to go, right down the toilet).
posted by antifuse at 1:12 AM on April 3, 2006


Thank you for all the advice on this issue.

To clarify, She told me the ex boyfriend told her he went to the police and got a warrant for her like a week after she left him. I contacted an atty this morning to track it down and find out what it is all about. To be fair, yes she is ditzy. She dosent know why he did this other than to hurt her for leaving him like 3 years ago. Since I didnt know her then (but dont want to be involved with a nut job either) I want her to take care of it. Ill know more this week.

Any other input is welcome!
posted by geengi at 9:28 AM on April 3, 2006

Thank you for your response.

Ill need a little more information tho.

So what your saying is LEAVING is fine but RETURNING is the porblem?

I made her tell me everything so this is the story.

Its a felony warrant for theft by deception. She dosent know how the fail to appear happend as she was never served. he prob lied to the cops and had it served at thier old house knowing full well she couldnt reply and they got the fail to appear. pretty sleazy if you ask me.

So, I dont know the severity of the warrant. Im trying to look in to it today I took off half a day to do this for her. I already paid for the tickets. she renewed her passport in Febuary and they sent her a new one last week. (if that matters)
posted by geengi at 9:35 AM on April 3, 2006

I'm pretty sure they don't check for a passport if you're just travelling internally.

antifuse, you need a passport for traveling internationally. Amtrak requires an ID at check-in, but they don't 'run' it, like the cop pulling you over. Or like at the airport, when they stick your passport into the reader, and then details of your entire life (that 'permanent record' your elementary teacher was warning you about) comes up on that little screen you can't see.

As for the 'rich dude' attempting domestic air travel without ID, don't have linkage handy, but apparently it is possible, but not without passing the secondary inspection.
posted by Rash at 10:03 AM on April 3, 2006

As for the 'rich dude' attempting domestic air travel without ID, don't have linkage handy, but apparently it is possible, but not without passing the secondary inspection.

Is this post from Boingboing what you were referring to?
posted by redsnare at 1:12 PM on April 3, 2006

While that's not the specific story, John Gilmore does appear to be the dude I was thinking about (and I note the interesting mapping in my mind between "well-known" and "rich".)
posted by antifuse at 4:19 AM on April 4, 2006


First, I would like to thank the entire community for answering this question. Thank you. very helpful people here.

Heres how it turned out.

The lawyer couldnt find any warrant after searching high and low. So, the ex boyfriend simply lied about it to her way back when and it worked. She was scared of it and thought there was a warrant out for her when in truth there is none.

Second, Since I ave only knew her 2 months and I heard this story about her and her ex and all this baggage, I decided to break up with her. I Simply dont need the drama that this woman would have put upon me.

So, flying to Japan next week solo. She now knows shes in the clear and I am again single!

Thank you all for your insight! great community. Ill recommend this site to friends with important questions.
posted by geengi at 3:16 PM on April 5, 2006

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