Extradition occurs when one state or nation gives over an individual to another state or nation for the purposes of criminal trial or punishment. The extradition of fugitives from one state to another within the U.S. is governed by federal as well as state laws. International extraditions are governed by treaties between nations and groups of nations.
U.S. federal law governs extradition from one state to another. The Extradition Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV Section 2) requires that all states transfer fugitives who have committed or are suspected of committing a crime to the state from which they have fled.
There are certain steps which are required in order for a fugitive to be extradited from one state to another. The state which claims jurisdiction over the underlying crime must first make a request for the alleged fugitive’s extradition. A court in the state which receives the request then determines if the request paperwork is in order.
If so, the court then issues a warrant for the arrest of the individual. The state court then determines whether to extradite the individual through subsequent hearings.
States can have their own laws which affect extradition as long as those laws do not conflict with federal law and many states have enacted the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act which describes the general rules about how local courts handle extradition requests. The Supreme Court has identified four issues which a state court can analyze to determine whether or not to extradite someone:
- Whether the request for extradition documents are in order;
- Whether the individual has been charged with a crime in the state which is requesting extradition;
- Whether the individual named in the extradition request is the individual charged with the crime; and
- Whether the individual is in fact a fugitive from the requesting state.
Most states have laws which require them to inform the individual of the extradition request, the underlying criminal charge and the individual’s right to seek legal counsel.
Extraditions between different countries are governed by treaties. These treaties can differ as to which crimes which would render someone eligible for extradition. Also, each country in an extradition treaty generally has its own laws which govern how it will deal with extradition requests. The process begins with a request from one country to another to extradite an individual.
The country receiving the request then looks to its treaty obligations and to its own laws on extradition and then decides whether to release the individual to the country requesting extradition.
The requesting country also has to meet certain procedural requirements and most countries require that the underlying offense be something which their own laws would consider as a crime. Most countries also do not extradite individuals for criminal charges of which the person has already been found not guilty.
Many countries do not extradite individuals for certain political crimes such as treason, sedition, espionage and alleged crimes which are related to the criticism of political leaders. Many countries also do not extradite individuals who may face certain punishments such as the death penalty in the country requesting the extradition.
Also, some countries do not extradite their own citizens to other countries. Usually in these cases, the countries claim jurisdiction over crimes committed abroad by their citizens and they may prosecute such crimes themselves.
Extradition laws can be quite complicated, especially in an international context where countries may have different laws regarding extradition. If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding this topic, it would be beneficial to consult with a local criminal lawyer.