Illustration for article titled Can you be arrested while serving time?

Ingmar Guandique is serving time for attacks on two women at knifepoint. And now an arrest warrant has been issued for him in the highly publicized case involving Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old former federal government intern whose body was found in the same park where Guandique’s two attacks occurred. Can you be arrested if you’re already serving time?


An arrest warrant is just a formal charge that police make to basically say, “We think this person committed this crime.” According to federal rules of criminal procedure, a warrant must fulfill four qualifications. It must contain the defendant’s name. It must describe the offense that the defendant is being charged with. It must “command that the defendant be arrested and brought without unnecessary delay” before a judge. And, finally, a judge must sign it. 

When the person is not imprisoned, the warrant gives police the right to arrest the person to further investigate the case. Similarly, the police may arrest an inmate named in a warrant for a charge other than the one for which the inmate is serving time. Being in prison already just makes that part easier. 


After the announcement of the warrant in the Chandra Levy case, Guandique reportedly began preparing to escape. On March 3, the Washington Post reported, “On Feb. 26, Guandique was removed from his cell without incident. Inside, authorities found AA batteries, tissue paper, a broken piece of a toenail clipper and several razor blades.” Guandique’s planned escape was unsuccessful, and he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Levy’s death.  

The former intern’s disappearance in 2001 created a media sensation when it was reported that she had been having an affair with her congressman, Gary Condit. Her remains were found in 2002 in Rock Creek Park, a popular destination for weekend walkers in Washington, D.C.   

The crimes that put Guandique behind bars seven years ago stem from assaults on two women that occurred in the same park in 2001. Guandique was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the two assaults and is serving the time in a federal penitentiary that is about 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  

In accordance with the warrant in the Levy case, which was issued March 3, 2009, he must appear before a judge in the District of Columbia “without unnecessary delay.” It has been reported that it will take 45 to 60 days to move Guandique across the country, though there is no strict deadline for his appearance in a courtroom in D.C.  


A judge may issue more than one warrant on the same complaint. Or, if the judge sees fit, a summons may be issued. A summons fulfills the same qualifications as a warrant. The difference is that a summons sets an exact date and time for the defendant to appear in court. If a defendant does not respond to the summons, a judge may issue a warrant. In the case of an absent defendant, if an attorney for the government requests a warrant, the judge is required to grant the request.  

Upon his arrival in D.C., it will be up to prosecutors, at trial, to prove that Guandique is guilty. 


Matthew J. McKnight is a graduate student at Georgetown University and is a regular contributor to The Root.

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