As an example, in Arizona, one is free to own many types of firearms without a license, whereas such things are heavily restricted in California.

The cops in California receive video evidence of Bob carrying many such unlicensed arms and so want to pursue him for arrest. However, Bob, not wanting to be arrested, goes to Arizona, where such possession is completely legal.

What will happen in this case? Are the California cops allowed to pursue Bob to Arizona for breaking a crime in California? Or are the Arizona cops obliged to arrest Bob and hand him over to the California cops? Or does Bob get off scot-free? But in the case, what happens if Bob goes back to California. Will he be immediately arrested?

Besides the firearms example, consider a bunch of such crimes (such as drug possession, or age-of-consent laws) that differ across states. My general question isn't about firearms in particular, but about breaking the law in one state, but then going to a state where that wasn't against the law in the first place.

P.S.: As an absurd aside: what if Bob is lying down with half of himself on either side of the border when committing the crime? E.g. lying on the border between South and North Carolina while smoking pot (SC has it illegal, NC has it legal). For good measure, have the top half of his body on the legal (NC) side.

  • I don't know enough to offer an answer, but extradition may be relevant
    – user35069
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 8:10
  • In Germany, where the local police are state based, a police official is considered a cilvian when outside of that state unless special agreements exist. Where they exist, the police call in informing their state of their intension of leaving which is then cleared with the other state. A similar arrangement exists between Poland and Germany. When the laws are different (as in your sample) authorisation to proceed would then not be given. Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 10:08
  • law.stackexchange.com/questions/33345/… Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 15:19
  • This vaguely reminds me of the Fugitive Slave Act.
    – guero64
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


In the U.S., in the event of a hot pursuit (i.e. It's a car chase, and the suspects are racing to the border Thelma and Louise Style) the pursuing Law Enforcement Officers are permitted to continue the pursuit out of their jurisdiction, until such time as LEO of proper jurisdiction can relieve the out of jurisdiction pursuit. This is true no matter if it's a state California Highway Patrol entering Arizona, San Bernadino Sheriff's Deputies entering Los Angeles County, or LAPD entering Compton (Compton is not in the City of Los Angeles, but rather the County of Los Angeles and is policed by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD).).

In the event that charges are filed against someone who is in another state, they are extradited from one state to another. Typically this is a quick process, with the state requesting extradition going before the court in the state receiving extradition. The requesting state must produce documents of the indictment that have been signed by their state's chief magistrate of governor. Upon doing so, the receiving state will affect the arrest and have the suspect remanded to the custody of an agent of the requesting state.

Unlike international extraditions, all extraditions in the United States are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, which means that in the above scenario, the act of breaking a California Law is grounds enough to justify the extradition, and there is no argument made to reciprocity (aka It's not illegal to do it in Arizona, so Arizona refuses to extradite). Failure to extradite can be grounds for a suit against the receiving state, which will be heard by SCOTUS.

As for your P.S. Borders are a funny place of existence, but a South Carolina police officer may arrest him just fine and prosecute him. In addition, because the suspect is committing a crime that crosses state borders, the feds can always have jurisdiction and can try the pot head regardless of how much he was crossed. This means that South Carolina and the Federal Government can seperately take a crack at him. Furthermore, possesion of Marijuana is still a federal crime, so if the feds wanted to, they can arrest Bob in North Carolina because the NC/SC border is still within U.S. Territory (The reason they don't is because in the grand scheme of things, the guy blazing it on the border of two states is not something the Feds want to waste their resources on. If Bob had enough to qualify for possession with intent to sell, that would make it a bit more interesting, as he's trafficking over state lines, which instantly puts it flatly in the DEA's jurisdiction (South Caroline would almost certainly be happy passing this to the Feds, because Federal Crimes are more serious and generally there's no time off for good behavior with the Feds.).

  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Law Meta, or in Law Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Dale M
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 20:31
  • 1
    "Failure to extradite can be grounds for a suit against the receiving state, which will be heard by SCOTUS": The usual course of action is for the state seeking extradition to sue the governor of the state that has custody of the accused (in the governor's official capacity, of course). These suits are heard in district courts.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 20:05

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