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fighting extradition from a foreign nation for prosecution in the united states

By Spodek Law Group | July 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: July 28, 2023)

Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:22 pm

Fighting Extradition from a Foreign Nation to the United States – A Detailed Guide

Being wanted for prosecution in the United States while living abroad can be an incredibly stressful and frightening situation. You may have settled into a new life in another country, only to have the past come back to potentially land you in an American jail cell. Trying to navigate international extradition laws on your own feels impossible. That’s why having an experienced attorney by your side is so critical.

This guide will walk you through key issues around challenging extradition from a foreign country and finding the right lawyer to fight on your behalf. We’ll dig into:

  • How extradition works between the U.S. and other countries
  • Steps in the extradition process
  • Strategies lawyers can use to oppose extradition requests
  • Where to find qualified counsel to handle your extradition defense
  • Questions to ask when interviewing extradition lawyers
  • How lawyers charge for extradition cases

Gaining a deeper understanding of the extradition process will help you make wise decisions during this harrowing time. An effective lawyer can often achieve positive outcomes, such as blocking the extradition entirely or negotiating to face charges abroad instead of being shipped to America in chains.

How Extradition Works Between the U.S. and Foreign Countries

Extradition is a formal process through which a fugitive found in one nation is transferred to another country for prosecution or to serve a sentence. The U.S. has extradition treaties with over 100 countries that spell out the rules and procedures. Even without a treaty, some countries will still cooperate with American extradition requests on good faith.

However, extradition is NOT automatic despite what an ominous-sounding arrest warrant might suggest. There are legal standards that requesting countries like the U.S. must satisfy, and defendants have opportunities to challenge the transfer in court.

Some key principles governing U.S. extraditions include:

  • Dual criminality – The alleged criminal offense must be serious enough to warrant extradition under both the American and foreign country’s laws.
  • Probable cause – The U.S. must produce evidence showing reasonable grounds to accuse the person of the crime.
  • Political offense exception – Extradition will not be granted if the accused’s actions amount to a political act rather than a common crime.
  • Rule of specialty – After transfer, the defendant can only be tried for offenses named in the extradition request.
  • Nationality exception – Some countries will not extradite their own citizens.

While the U.S. would clearly prefer swift and automatic extradition, host countries want to safeguard defendants’ rights and sovereignty. Extradition battles essentially put the American justice system itself on trial. Skilled lawyers can exploit this dynamic.

The Standard Stages of the U.S. Extradition Process

While extradition proceedings vary by country, there are general phases that apply to U.S. requests:

Initial investigationFederal agencies like the FBI, DEA, SEC, or IRS first build a case and gather evidence against the target. This is usually done in secret without the person’s knowledge.

Request submission – Once authorities feel confident, the U.S. State Department formally asks the host country to arrest and extradite the individual using the treaty process or letters rogatory.

Provisional arrest – With probable cause, the host country detains the accused pending further extradition proceedings.

Extradition hearing – A judge in the foreign nation hears the U.S. evidence and the accused’s defense and rules on whether extradition should proceed. Appeals are sometimes possible.

Surrender – If courts approve the extradition, the defendant gets transferred to U.S. custody.

Post-arrival proceedings – The extradited person appears before an American judge and gets booked into the U.S. criminal justice system. Bail may be set along with court dates.

As you can see, extradition involves many stages where skilled attorneys can take actions to derail the process.

How Lawyers Fight Extradition Requests

To have any chance of avoiding extradition, you need an attorney knowledgeable about both relevant extradition laws as well as the U.S. criminal charges driving the case. They can marshal a number of arguments before foreign courts in an effort to defeat the transfer, such as:

  • Questioning the strength and authenticity of the U.S. government’s submitted evidence.
  • Arguing that the accused’s alleged deeds don’t meet the host country’s standard for being an extraditable offense.
  • Asserting that the charges fall under the host country’s “political offense exception.”
  • Insisting that the accused would face torture or inhumane treatment if extradited to America.
  • Citing fears of racial or ethnic discrimination negatively impacting a fair trial in the U.S.
  • Producing proof of the defendant’s citizenship status in the host country, which may bar extradition.

In addition to these legal defenses, lawyers also leverage their negotiation skills to seek alternatives to extradition. Options might include:

  • Convincing prosecutors to withdraw the extradition request and seek fines or settlement instead.
  • Persuading the host country to prosecute the accused there as opposed to sending them to America.
  • Securing a guarantee that any eventual sentences can be served in the host country rather than U.S. prisons.
  • Agreeing to enhanced supervision such as bail or ankle monitoring in lieu of detention.

Skilled extradition counsel knows how to present these arguments persuasively in court and posture your case to prosecutors. Every extradition treaty is slightly different, so local legal expertise is key.

Where to Find an Extradition Lawyer up to the Challenge

Fighting extradition is difficult under the best circumstances. Doing so without competent counsel is next to impossible. Where should you look for legal firepower skilled in international extradition?

In the country currently detaining you – Hiring locally practicing lawyers has many advantages. They speak the language, understand the subtleties of the applicable treaty, maintain relationships with prosecutors, and know the local judges. Fighting on your own turf maximizes chances.

Big law firms in Washington DC or New York – If money is no object, large U.S. firms have lawyers well versed in the American side of equations. They can coordinate with local counsel abroad. Ideal for complex business crimes.

Boutique international law firms – Smaller firms with just a few lawyers often focus specifically on cross-border cases like extraditions. Their connections and creativity can prove fruitful.

Court-appointed or legal aid lawyers – Going with free government-provided counsel is very risky in extradition cases unless they have specific experience with the process.

Individual defense attorneys – Solo practitioners near you or U.S. prosecutors may offer special expertise if they’ve handled extradition matters in the past. Ask for past case examples.

Tap any connections you have within the legal community in your area or abroad to identify lawyers with extradition experience. Specialized skills matter a lot in this complex arena.

Questions to Ask Prospective Extradition Lawyers

Once you have a list of extradition attorney candidates, question them vigorously to ascertain their fit for your specific case. Areas to probe include:

  • How many extradition cases have you previously worked on and what were the outcomes?
  • Are you thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and [host country]?
  • Do you have working relationships with judges and prosecutors relevant to my case?
  • What are some strategies you can pursue to avoid or at least delay the extradition?
  • If extradition looks likely, how can you minimize my charges/sentence in the U.S.?
  • Will you coordinate with American counsel to build my defense on U.S. issues as well?
  • How quickly can you get up to speed on the details of my case?

Gauge expertise beyond just extradition as well by asking about the lawyer’s background handling related criminal charges, conducting investigations, and navigating international red tape.

Comfort level is also key – you want an attorney willing to fight tooth and nail and get creative yet real about challenges. Beware lawyers promising easy extradition victories. Probe their track record.

How Extradition Lawyers Charge for Their Services

All the treaty knowledge and aggression in the world doesn’t help if you can’t afford counsel. Extradition cases are time-intensive and complex, so expect higher costs but look for flexibility. Payment options include:

  • Hourly billing – Most common approach bills for time in 6 minute increments. Rates depend on experience and location.
  • Flat fee – Some lawyers may charge a fixed overall price for handling defined aspects of your extradition proceedings.
  • Monthly retainer – A retainer provides access to ongoing representation for a recurring fee paid regardless of hours.
  • Contingency – Rare in criminal defense but some lawyers take a percentage of cost savings achieved.
  • Pro bono – If lacking funds, pro bono counsel may provide free services in the public interest.

Reputable attorneys work within your budget constraints without compromising zealous defense. Negotiate creative fee structures if needed.

Check if assets seized by U.S. authorities can fund your legal expenses. Also ask if local legal aid can assist with portions of the extradition battle.

Act Quickly to Challenge U.S. Extradition

The clock starts ticking fast once a foreign nation arrests you on behalf of U.S. prosecutors. The risk of getting whisked away to America in handcuffs grows by the day. With expertise in both the extradition process itself and defending against criminal charges, skilled extradition counsel can often win the day. But you must act quickly and decisively.

Stay calm and contact qualified lawyers for an urgent assessment. They can immediately begin taking steps to assert your rights and control the narrative. Don’t let the intimidating extradition machinery steamroll over you. Fight back intelligently with the law on your side. The right attorney can make all the difference.

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