Extradition is a formal, cooperative law enforcement process between two jurisdictions where one state can turn over a person accused or convicted of a crime to the state where they were charged or convicted.
One of the most well-known extradition stories is that of Edward Snowden. The former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee was a whistleblower who leaked highly classified information in 2013 from the National Security Agency (NSA). Snowden fled to Russia, where he was held at the Moscow airport while U.S. authorities requested Russian officials to return him to the United States. Russia had previously proposed a treaty with the United States for the mutual extradition of criminals; however, the U.S. never agreed to it. Because of this and the fact that the U.S. had never extradited a Russian criminal taking asylum in the U.S., Snowden’s extradition was unlikely.
Extradition can happen between two states or two countries. The processes and procedures are different for each. Extradition between countries is typically regulated by treaties. The United States has extradition treaties with over 100 countries around the world, but there are many without extradition as well. Within the U.S., extradition between states is governed by federal law.
The Extradition Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article Iv Section 2) requires that:
“A person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the state from he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.”
Requirements and guidelines for extradition between states can be found in the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA). Not all states have adopted the UCEA, however, states that have not adopted it have their own extradition laws that comply with the federal law. The only two U.S. states that have not adopted the UCEA are South Carolina and Missouri.
Extradition Process Between States
First, there must be a probable cause to issue an out-of-state arrest warrant, usually when a person is believed to have fled the state or fails to show up for a court date.
When such a warrant is issued, the is filed into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) so that other states can see the warrant information. After the out-of-state warrant is issued and the person sought is arrested in the new state, the authors will notify the issuing state.
After being notified, the first state may request the return of the fugitive. There may be no request for return if the person is charged with a misdemeanor or something other than a violent felony. If the request is made, the fugitive has the option of waiving extradition or attempting to fight the extradition through a writ of habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus is a court order that demands a public official deliver an imprisoned individual to the court and show a valid reason for the person’s detention. This allowed inmates or other acting on their behalf to dispute the legal basis for confinement.
If the fugitive refuses to waive extradition, the first state will request to have the individual returned. Return requests are handled through the office of the governor of each state and must be approved by both. If approved, a hearing will be held and a court in the state to which the fugitive fled will decide to grant or deny extradition.
The fugitive must be informed of the nature and cause of the extradition, including the request, the underlying criminal charge, and the person’s right to legal counsel.
As long as the proper extradition process and procedure have been followed, the fugitive must be surrendered to the first state. The U.S. Supreme Court has identified a few defenses to extradition, including:
- Whether the request documents are in order
- Whether the person has been charged with a crime in the demanding state
- Whether the person named in the request is the person who committed the crime
- Whether the petitioner is a fugitive from the requesting state.
If the writ for habeas corpus is unsuccessful, the arresting state must hold onto the fugitive for the demanding state, who has 30 days to retrieve the fugitive. If the demanding state does not retrieve the fugitive in 30 days, the arresting state can decide to release them.
Because federal law regulates extradition between states, there are no states that do not have extradition.
As of 2010, Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii do not extradite for misdemeanor convictions committed in another U.S. state. In general, these three states will not extradite the fugitive if the crime is not a felony because of the transportation costs and the housing fees that must be paid to the arresting jurisdiction.