Airlines & Airports - 16 min read

Can You Fly If You Have a Warrant?

Betty Nelson

Betty Nelson, Updated October 9, 2022

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A warrant authorizes the police or other law enforcement body to arrest, search, or perform some other action in pursuit of justice. If there’s a warrant in your name, it usually means the police are investigating you. You may be free to move around if the warrant doesn’t demand an arrest. But can you fly if you have a warrant?

You can often fly within the United States with a warrant. The TSA is not excessively strict on traveling domestically if you have a warrant unless in severe cases. However, international travel may be difficult since international travelers frequently undergo extensive background checks. The best thing to do is to deal with your warrant before you travel.

TSA officers at airports typically do not have access to warrant databases. In addition, the airport police are hardly on the lookout for people with a warrant. However, the police may take you into custody if they discover you have a warrant and your case is severe.

Additionally, international travel is more intricate as countries have different laws and regulations. Hence, you should review the travel laws of any country you intend to visit.

Does TSA Check for a Warrant?

TSA does not actively check if there is a warrant for travelers. However, it’s not always advisable to fly when you have an outstanding warrant to clear. Some situations may prompt the TSA to look more thoroughly into your profile when traveling.

They could detect that you have a warrant, which can lead to your detention and subsequent arrest by the police. A typical situation where the TSA will look more deeply into your profile data is if you’re not with your ID.

Another instance is if you get caught up in a dispute or an altercation at the airport. Also, if you’re carrying banned items, you may raise a red flag.

A Quick Look at TSA Rules on Flying With a Warrant

The TSA is not a law enforcement agency. They are only concerned with ensuring safe travel for all flight passengers. As such, they cannot arrest you for having a warrant because they do not have the authority to dictate the rules of flying with or without a warrant. 

However, if they detect that you have an arrest warrant when going through your information, they can detain you. Afterward, the TSA will alert the police, who have the right to arrest you. 

The TSA does not have all the information available to law enforcement, and the communication gap with them may not be robust. However, they may work hand-in-hand with the police to pick out an individual traveling with a warrant.

For this reason, you should clear out any outstanding warrants you have before embarking on your journey. That way, you can avoid being detained by the TSA and handed over to the police.

Related Read: How Strict Is JetBlue with Personal Item Size?

What Does TSA Check on Your ID

Most times, the TSA does not check your ID. However, in many cases, they may conduct a routine check to ensure that your name matches the name on your boarding pass. Also, they’ll check to make sure the photo on your ID is yours. 

Furthermore, they may check whether your ID has expired or is valid. They may run your ID against special devices like the ultraviolet scan to see whether your identification is fake. The devices can bring up other information about you, including if you have a warrant.

Can You Fly Within the US With a Warrant?

You can fly within the United States if you have an outstanding warrant. However, it depends on you not getting flagged by the TSA at the airport. If your warrant is for something severe, it’s best not to travel.

Flights within the U.S. don’t usually have the intensive background checks typical with international flights. Given this, you may pass through the airport and board your flight without any detection from the TSA. 

If you’re unaware of the existence of your warrant, you should be safe to fly. However, the authorities may notice your absence and detain you when you return. In severe cases, they may go to your location and arrest you. If a court judge has categorically told you not to leave town, you should heed the order.

Generally, avoid traveling within the U.S. until you settle any outstanding warrant if you don’t want to prevent unfriendly consequences. 

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Does TSA Check for Warrants on Domestic Flights?

Unless prompted by an out-of-the-ordinary activity at the airport, the TSA does not often check for warrants on domestic flights. The TSA typically screens passengers on several things, like the validity of their identification. They inspect whether there is any prohibited item and other threats to transportation security.

However, if you do not have your ID with you or become a source of commotion at the airport, the TSA may identify you. Subsequently, they’ll check your name against different databases, and your name may come up as having an outstanding warrant. At this point, they can detain you until the police arrive.

Why You Might Get Arrested When Flying With a Warrant

Some situations could lead to your arrest at the airport if you have an outstanding warrant. Generally, any activity beyond normal could raise the suspicion of law enforcement, and they may run a routine check of your name on their database.

As a result, your name search could reveal you have an outstanding warrant. Below are some common causes that could lead to your arrest:

Verifying Identification

You should have your ID when boarding a flight. However, you may need to go through the identification process if you forget to bring it along. 

There’s a good chance that the personnel at the airport will discover that you have an outstanding warrant. You’ll be detained and referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency when that happens. Ultimately, it’ll lead to your arrest.

Caught Up in a Dispute

If you get involved in some kind of argument with the airport staff or with a fellow traveler while boarding your plane, you will draw the attention of the police. Also, you could become subject to extensive scrutiny when you hold up a security line or refuse to pass through the airport security checkpoint.

In the same way, you may just be a bystander witnessing an altercation at the airport, and the police may bring you in to give a witness statement. This way, you may get involved too.

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Banned Items

Some items, like firearms, explosives, and sharp objects, are not allowed at the airport. Hence, when you bring such things, you will be handed over to the police and may get your files checked. 

Again, you may get to meet with the authorities if the officers find you with illegal drugs. However, you are unlikely to be called out for holding some drugs that are not harmful. There are TSA marijuana rules that explain that.

Tipped

Another way of getting arrested at the airport if you have a warrant could be when TSA agents get a tip to be on the lookout for someone. If you fit the description of whom they’re looking for, you could be stopped for an investigation and may end up getting arrested.

Also, someone who knows of your warrant and your travel plans may decide to tip the authorities regarding your movements. You may meet a welcome party of police waiting for you when you arrive at the airport.

Bad Luck

If you’re unlucky, you may also get into trouble even when you didn’t do anything to raise suspicion of the law. The TSA officers may decide to run your name against a database and find that you have an outstanding warrant.

However, it’s challenging and resource-consuming for airline staff to run every passenger’s name against a database for background checks on outstanding warrants.

Notably, there’s always the likelihood of a group of individuals who may have warrants for minor offenses like parking tickets. Trying to arrest them all may interfere with airport logistics and won’t be worth it.

Serious Offenses

Suppose you have an outstanding warrant for a serious offense like federal or state offenses. In that case, you have a higher chance of getting arrested if you go to the airport. 

Law enforcement may monitor your movements and arrest you when you arrive at the airport. Generally, if you’re going to travel through an airport with an outstanding warrant, you should always be aware that there is a prospect of you getting arrested.

International Travel

The stakes are higher if you decide to make an international trip. As such, you should expect the airport officers to check your name against different databases. They do this to identify at-risk individuals, which includes those with outstanding warrants.

Your name may even be flagged long before you arrive at the airport. This is because, in many cases, when making an international trip, you will need to apply for a visa. Hence, the visa application will involve a background check, and the embassy will detect your outstanding warrant. 

On the other hand, immigration can revoke your passport if you have serious offense charges. Consequently, it will limit your ability to leave the country.

Here are some situations where immigration can revoke your passport:

  • If you’re subject to a federal arrest
  • If you owe child support fees
  • If you have drug trafficking allegations
  • If you’re under a supervised release program for felony or drug charges relating to the sale or distribution of a controlled substance.
  • If you’re banned from leaving the country by probation, parole, or court order.

If the officers don’t check your name when you depart the country, they will do so when you come back through Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

When Can I Fly with a Warrant?

You can fly with an outstanding warrant. However, there is no guarantee that you won’t get caught up with the law at the airport. While the TSA is not always actively looking for airline passengers with outstanding warrants, some situations may lead to your name getting checked against databases. 

When this happens, your name may come up as having an outstanding warrant; this can lead to your detention and subsequent arrest by the police. You can often fly on domestic flights with an outstanding warrant and not get detected.

However, the same isn’t true for an international flight due to the heightened scrutiny you’ll undergo before you board the plane.

Can You Fly if You Have a Warrant for Child Support?

You can fly if you have a child support warrant. However, you may be flagged and detained at the airport due to the outstanding warrant. It doesn’t matter if it’s for child support or not.

You can travel when you owe child support without a warrant. However, owing child support fees may impede your travel plans, especially if you are yet to get a passport or your existing passport has expired.

This is because you won’t be issued a new passport if you owe over $2,500 on child support. As such, you may have to pay your child support arrears to the child support enforcement agency before you can apply for a passport and subsequently travel.

Can I Fly with a Misdemeanor Warrant?

Generally, you can still fly if you have an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. Although, it’s worth noting that there is a remote chance that the police will arrest you if they find out. They will find out if the airline staff or TSA runs up your identification. 

However, you may not get arrested because the airport staff and the TSA do not always check travelers’ identification against databases for outstanding warrants. But if they do and your name comes up with a misdemeanor warrant, you will be detained and retrieved by the police. If they deem it fit, you will face a court judge or/and have satisfied your warrant.

It’s always advisable to clear up any outstanding warrant you have with the law before embarking on any travel to avoid issues.

Does TSA Check for Felony Warrants?

Felony is a bigger crime than a misdemeanor and has heavier consequences. However, the TSA does not check for felony warrants whenever you go through airport security. While there is a possibility that you may get pulled aside for an arrest, it would be very uncommon. 

The TSA is not overly concerned about who has a warrant or not as they are not a law enforcers agency. However, if, for some reason, a law enforcement agency outside the airport makes contact with the TSA to be on the lookout for a specific individual, you may get your name checked for a warrant.

If you have a felony warrant, your name will come up, and you will be in detention until the law enforcement agency comes and picks you up.

Who Cannot Fly with a Warrant?

There are certain charges an individual may have that may prevent them from flying. For instance, certain convicted criminals can have their passports denied, making them unable to fly internationally.

One of the crimes that can prohibit individuals from flying is if they are international drug traffickers. Drug trafficking is a grave offense, and any convicted drug trafficker will not be issued a passport to fly.

Again if you’re subject to federal arrest, you may not be able to fly because your passport may be seized or even revoked. In the same way, if you’re banned by probation, parole, or court order, you may not be able to leave the country.

Also, anyone imprisoned or under a supervised release program or parole usually cannot fly or travel out of the jurisdiction. It’s worth noting that anyone who owes money in child support of up to $2,500 cannot fly with a warrant.

Who Can Fly Domestic with a Warrant?

Anyone can fly domestic with a warrant because your name doesn’t appear on the boarding pass, so you may not need to worry about your warrant if you take a domestic flight. In addition, only a few people outside law enforcement can access your warrant information.

In the same way, some warrants often have jurisdiction or location where they can be served and may not hold authority outside such jurisdiction. For instance, you may have a warrant in Illinois but stay in another state like Pennsylvania.

In that case, you cannot face arrest if you’re flying around Pennsylvania or out of the state to other states – except Illinois, where you have a warrant. However, warrants for grave offenses may have nationwide extradition. As a result, you may be arrested anywhere in the United States, but this kind of warrant is rare.

Can You Fly Out of State if You Have a Warrant?

You can fly from one state in the US to another even if you have a warrant. Since your travel is between states in the USA, it is a domestic flight. As such, you may not pass through thorough scrutiny of your information like you would if it were to be an international flight.

There is often no data check of your name to determine warrants when making domestic travels. However, if you want to travel out of the US or its territories – like Puerto Rico – immigration or TSA officers will likely check your background for warrants.

As such, there is a high chance that the TSA will find out that you have a warrant and detain you until the police come and arrest you.

However, if you have a bench warrant, you’ll likely be able to fly. A bench warrant is issued by a judge when someone fails to appear in court. As long as you don’t have any other outstanding warrants, you should be able to fly.

In contrast, if you have a fugitive warrant, it is less likely that you will be able to fly. A fugitive warrant is issued when someone is charged with a crime in one state and then flees to another state.

The FBI may put your name on the National Crime Information Center database if you have a fugitive warrant. This database is used by airlines to screen passengers.

Can You Travel Internationally With a Warrant?

If you’re in the middle of a trial or have an outstanding warrant to settle, you may not be able to travel out of the United States. This is especially if your offense is a federal offense or felony. Your passport may be confiscated by the court or left with you, but you’ll receive specific instructions to stay in the country while your case is processed. 

If you attempt to fly out of the country with a warrant, it will be detected from the background checks by the airport staff. Subsequently, the airport staff will deny your travel request and may even alert the police of the development.

You may not be able to get a passport if you have a warrant issued in your name. This is because of the condition in form DS-11, which requires that you legally state that you are not a subject of an outstanding warrant for federal, state, or local arrest for a felony.

Will I Get Stopped at the Airport if I Have a Warrant for My Arrest?

If you have a warrant for your arrest, there is a possibility that you may get stopped at the airport. However, the chances of this happening depend on the country you’re traveling to, so it’s not guaranteed.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for security at airports but not responsible for enforcing warrants. As such, it’s the job of law enforcement officers to enforce warrants.

If a TSA officer finds out you have a warrant, they may notify law enforcement. But, they may also let you go if they feel like it is not a threat to security.

However, if you are traveling to a country with an extradition treaty with the United States, there is a higher chance that you will be stopped at the airport. Some countries do not have extradition treaties with the United States, but they may still extradite American citizens if they are wanted for a crime.

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