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Last Updated on: 17th March 2023, 03:55 pm
Federal criminal cases can be complicated because they often involve conduct that occurs across state lines. For instance, in a federal criminal fraud case, the individuals involved may reside in multiple jurisdictions within the United States and engage in transactions initiated in various localities.
Although a federal crime may touch multiple areas within the country, the prosecution is initiated in only one federal jurisdiction, known as a district. While some states have only one federal district, larger states may have multiple federal districts. California, for instance, has several districts, including the Central District centered around Los Angeles and the Northern District centered around San Francisco.
Fleeing from one state to another does not always mean that a federal defendant will evade punishment if caught. The federal government and states typically attempt to bring alleged criminals to justice through a process called extradition.
Extradition laws give states the authority to hand someone over to another state for criminal trial or punishment. Extradition can occur between different states or between two countries.
The extradition process between states is governed by federal law described under the Extradition Clause of the United States Constitution, and 18 U.S.C § 3182 provides requirements for extradition.
In this article, we’ll focus on extradition between states, the process involved, and potential defenses to prevent extradition.
It is often the case that a defendant 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.
Alternatively, the defendant may have 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.
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 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 merely overwhelming, such as fingerprints, photos, or other identifying information that cannot realistically be challenged.
In some cases, however, there may be a bona fide issue as to the defendant’s identity. In a country with hundreds of millions of individuals, it does happen, although rarely, that an arrestee might seemingly match the physical characteristics. Additionally, there might be a match on the name, date of birth, or other identifiers of the federal criminal defendant but, in reality, be a different person.
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.
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 before 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 remaining 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 of being represented by experienced federal criminal defense counsel in the investigative stage of a federal criminal case.
The extradition process can be complex and often intimidating for a defendant facing charges across state lines. That’s why it’s crucial to consult with experienced federal international extradition lawyers to guide you through the process and help defend your rights.
While the extradition phase of a federal case may be limited in terms of the defendant’s rights, there are still ways to challenge the extradition process and negotiate alternatives to self-surrender to avoid being taken into custody.
Working with an experienced federal criminal defense counsel in the investigative stage of a federal criminal case can make a significant difference in avoiding formal extradition proceedings and securing the best possible outcome in your case. Contact a qualified federal criminal defense attorney today to discuss your legal options.
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