Extradition From the U.S. to Another Country
Some individuals who are facing criminal charges leave the U.S. to avoid prosecution or sentencing. However, a number of people facing criminal prosecution in foreign countries also come to the U.S. for safe haven.
In some cases, they are facing political persecution in their home country. Others may have committed a crime in another country without even realizing their actions could be considered criminal. When the foreign country requests the U.S. to turn over a suspect, federal officials have to consider whether or not to surrender the individual.
Extradition is a formal process where a suspect wanted in a foreign country is found in another country, and a request is made to surrender the individual to face charges. In the United States, extradition is generally regulated by treaty, negotiated between two countries to cover the process for extradition of individuals to or from the United States.
The U.S. has extradition treaties with over 120 countries. However, the specifics of each treaty varies by country. In general, the U.S. does not deny extradition in death penalty cases, as many other countries do with the U.S. Some treaties may include a political-offense exception, against extradition for purely political crimes.
The process for extraditing fugitives from a foreign country is described in 18 U.S.C. § 3184. Foreign extradition requests are generally made through the embassy of the country making the request. The request of a fugitive from the United States may then be made to the Department of State. The Department of State may then forward the request to the Department of Justice Criminal Division Office of International Affairs (OIA).
Extradition requests can involve a formal request with supporting documentation as required by the extradition treaty. Alternatively, the country may make a request for a provisional arrest, in some cases submitted directly to the Department of Justice.
When the OIA receives a foreign extradition request, the request is reviewed for sufficiency, and forwarded to the appropriate district where the fugitive is located. The Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the case will obtain a warrant, and arrest the fugitive, to be brought before a magistrate or district judge. Prosecutors will generally oppose bond in extradition cases.
The individual will then have a hearing before a judge to evaluate the evidence of criminality. If the judge deems the evidence sufficient to sustain the charge under the extradition treaty, the judge will certify the evidence is sufficient, and provide a copy of the testimony to the Secretary of State. A warrant may be issued for commitment to the proper jail, where the individual will remain until custody is to be surrendered.
The OIA will notify the foreign government that the individual is ready to be surrendered, and arrange for the transfer of the individual to agents appointed by the requesting country.
Extradition hearings are not appealable, either by the government or the fugitive. However, the fugitive may petition for a writ of habeas corpus as soon as the order for extradition is issued. The district court's decision on the writ of habeas corpus is appealable.
You may only have one chance to fight to stay in the country. Because there is so much riding on the initial hearing, it is important to have an experienced attorney by your side, to fight the extradition charges.Your federal defense attorney may also file a writ of habeas corpus if an order is issued, to challenge the detention of the individual as unlawful.
Extradition of U.S. Citizens
Each extradition treaty is unique, and each was negotiated between the countries individually. Some extradition treaties address extradition of U.S. citizens to another country, while others do not require U.S. extradition of its citizens to a foreign country. However, the U.S. may still turn over U.S. citizens to another country without it being required by the extradition treaty.
Under 18 U.S.C. § 3196, “If the applicable treaty or convention does not obligate the United States to extradite its citizens to a foreign country, the Secretary of State may, nevertheless, order the surrender to that country of a United States citizen whose extradition has been requested by that country if the other requirements of that treaty or convention are met.”
Extradition is a sensitive topic, especially when a country is being asked to turn over one of their own citizens. This is why extradition cases involving the U.S. are not solely handled by law enforcement, but are required to go through diplomatic channels before seeking extradition, or responding to an extradition request.
Extradition Defense Attorneys
If you are facing extradition to another country, you may need a U.S.-based attorney to fight your extradition. Your federal defense attorney will work to make sure your voice is heard, and keep you and your family safe. Your attorney can negotiate with federal and diplomatic officials to prevent your extradition to a foreign country where you may not get a fair trial.
Before you flee the U.S. to seek shelter in another country, take advantage of your opportunities to speak to experienced federal defense attorneys. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of your options, evaluate your case, identify available defenses, and represent you in court to make sure get the fair treatment you deserve.