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How do bench warrants work when I move to a new state?

San Francisco, CA |

To my knowledge, there is a bench warrant for me in the state of Colorado. I found out about it when driving through another state and was pulled over by the police for a tail-light being out; however the policeman didn't know what the warrant was for either when it was pulled up on my Colorado license. Obviously he didn't arrest me. I am now getting ready to settle down in a new state. What will happen if I register myself at the DMV for a new license? Will they arrest me? How does that work? I suspect the warrant is probably for a missed court date I wasn't able to attend due to being out of town for business.

Oh yeah...the court date was in regards to unpaid debt; not related at all to any traffic violations or anything major.

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Attorney answers 2


Warrants don't expire, so you're going to have to deal with it one of several ways.

Get an attorney that practices back there to clear it up;
Go back and deal with it;
Wait to be arrested on the warrant and possibly extradited back.

The court here can do nothing about it, as there is no jurisdiction. It has to be handled in the court where the warrant is issued.

The DMV is linked to other states and you're likey to face roadblocks in getting a license here if there is a hold on your license from Colorado (likely the case).



can you be more specific... does this mean that have an arrest warrant will prevent one from being able to renew a driver's license? (in my case... California). thank you.

Joseph Briscoe Dane

Joseph Briscoe Dane


With the additional information, I'm unclear - when you say unpaid debt, was it connected to a criminal case and it's money you owed the court or it's a debt in a civil matter? If your license was suspended by Colorado, California will likely also not issue you a license until the Colorado matter is cleared up. If you know what this is all about, see if you can't locate a local criminal defense attorney in Colorado that routinely practices in the county where your case was to assist in clearing this up.


Warrants do not "go away" after a period of time. Should you find yourself pulled over on a traffic violation or you are re-entering the country you face being arrested and taken into custody on the outstanding bench warrant. You should retain a lawyer who can have the warrant recalled and resolve the matter.

With respect to obtaining your drivers license; if there is a hold on your license in Colorado another state may not issue you a license. If your license is suspended because of the prior action you may also be cited for driving on a suspended license.

Also depending on the amount of time you have been in California, if you are driving on a license from another state you may be cited for driving without a license. You should speak to DMV to see how long you have to get a valid CDL once you have made California your residence.