Federal Extradition Process
Federal criminal cases, by their very nature, often involve conduct which occurs across state lines. A federal criminal fraud case, for example, might involve individuals who reside in multiple jurisdictions within the 50 states and might involve transactions which were initiated in multiple localities.
Although a federal crime will have touched multiple different areas within the United States, the prosecution will be initiated in only one federal jurisdiction, known as a district.
Some states have only one federal district while larger states may have multiple federal districts. California, for instance, has several districts including the Central District which is centered around Los Angeles and the Northern District which is centered around San Francisco.
Fleeing from one state to another doesn't always mean a federal defendant will evade punishment if caught. States and the federal government will typically attempt to bring alleged criminals to justice through a process called extradition.
Extradition laws give a state the authority to hand someone over to another state for criminal trial or punishment. Extradition can occur between different states or between two countries.
Federal law governs extradition from one state to another and described under the Extradition Clause of the United States Constitution and 18 U.S.C § 3182 provides requirements for extradition.
This article will focus on extradition between states and describe the process and potential defenses to prevent extradition.
To give readers a better understanding of the extradition process, our federal criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.
Defendant Arrested in Different Jurisdiction
It is often the case that a defendant who has been indicted in one federal jurisdiction will be taken into custody by law enforcement in a different jurisdiction.
This can occur because the United States Marshals or other federal law enforcement such as ATF, DEA, or FBI affirmatively seek out and take the defendant into custody.
It could also occur because the defendant has been arrested by local or state authorities on an unrelated matter and they notify the federal government of their possession of the defendant who has been charged in federal court.
In any case, when the defendant is physically arrested in one federal district for charges arising out of another federal district, the process of federal extradition must be commenced.
Requirements and guidelines are addressed in the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA). However, the UCEA is not mandatory and not all states have adopted it. States that haven't adopted it have their own extradition laws that comply with the federal statute.
Defendant's Rights During Extradition
The defendant's rights during the extradition phase of a federal case are limited. Essentially, the government only has to prove that the person who has been arrested is the correct individual.
This is known as proving identity and can be accomplished in one of two ways. The far more common way to prove identity is that the arrestee simply waives their right to contest identity knowing that it would be futile to dispute that they are the correct individual.
Waiving identity might be prudent to speed up the process of extradition or because the government's evidence of identity is simply overwhelming because of fingerprints, photos, or other identifying information which cannot realistically be challenged.
In other cases, there may be a bona fide issue as to the defendant's identity. In a country of hundreds of millions of individuals, it does happen, though it is rare, that an arrestee might seemingly match the physical characteristics.
Also, there might be a match on the name, date or birth, or other identifiers of the federal criminal defendant but in fact be a completely different person.
In these cases, the defendant may wish to take advantage of their right to challenge the government's proof as to identity in a formal hearing before a federal judge.
Speeding up Extradition Process
Speeding up the process of extradition may ultimately be to the defendant's benefit. While pending extradition, the defendant will very rarely be released on bond.
This means that the defendant will remain in federal law enforcement custody until they are transported to the jurisdiction in which the charges have been filed to be arraigned before a federal judge.
If extradition is accomplished quickly, the defendant can see a judge in the correct jurisdiction sooner to argue for their pretrial release either on a signature bond or a surety bond.
Additionally, the defendant cannot begin to argue most of their defenses to the charges until they are in the jurisdiction where the charges were filed.
While certain procedural defects in the charging document, and of course identity as discussed above, can be addressed in the jurisdiction where the defendant is arrested, the extraditing district's function is not to adjudicate the merits of the criminal charges.
Put simply, the fact that the defendant has a viable defense or may be factually innocent is no defense to extradition.
The extraditing jurisdiction will not usurp the charging jurisdiction's role by evaluating the strength of the government's evidence or what, if any, legal or factual defenses the defendant may ultimately have at trial.
Federal International Extradition Lawyers
There aren't many defenses to extradition as long as the process described in the United States Constitution and federal law were followed. In the vast majority of cases, the fugitive must be surrendered to the demanding state.
There are, however, a few defenses that have been confirmed by the Supreme Court. These include whether the extradition documents were in proper order, whether the defendant was charged with a crime in the demanding state, and whether they are actually the person charged.
If the defendant's petition for writ for habeas corpus is not successful, the arresting state has to hold them and the demanding state then has 30 days to retrieve the fugitive.
If a defendant is represented by counsel prior to arrest and becomes aware of the filing of formal criminal charges, they may have an opportunity to negotiate a self-surrender in the proper jurisdiction with the prosecutor who filed the charges.
This avoids the defendant having to be taken into custody, and likely remain in custody, pending an extradition hearing.
In addition to the opportunity for pre-filing resolutions to criminal cases, avoiding the formal extradition process is a significant benefit to being represented by experienced federal criminal defense counsel in the investigative stage of a federal criminal case.