Extradition Law

Extradition laws give a state or nation the ability to hand over someone to another state or nation for purposes of criminal trial or punishment. Within the U.S., federal law, as complemented by state laws, governs the extradition of fugitives from one state to another. Treaties between nations and groups of nations govern international extraditions.

In addition to having procedural requirements, most nations refuse to extradite individuals for acts which would not be considered a crime locally, and will not extradite individuals accused or convicted of certain political crimes. Some nations also refuse to extradite individuals who may be subject to torture or the death penalty in the requesting country.

Extradition Laws Between States

Within the U.S., federal law governs extradition from one state to another. 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 which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

First, the state which claims jurisdiction over the underlying crime makes a request for the alleged fugitive's extradition. A court in the state which receives the extradition request determines whether the request paperwork is in order and, if so, issues a warrant for the arrest of the person. Through subsequent hearings, the state court determines whether to extradite the person.

Though federal law trumps, states may have their own laws affecting extradition, as long as those laws do not conflict with federal law. Many states have enacted the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, which spells out general rules about how local courts handle extradition requests.

The Supreme Court has identified four issues which a state court may analyze when determining whether or not to extradite:

  1. whether the extradition request documents are in order;
  2. whether the person has been charged with a crime in the requesting state;
  3. whether the person named in the extradition request is the person charged with the crime; and
  4. whether the petitioner is, in fact, a fugitive from the requesting state.

States, in deciding whether to extradite, generally may not delve into the underlying charge behind an extradition request. Most states do, however, have laws requiring them to inform the individual of: (1) the extradition request, (2) the underlying criminal charge, and (3) the individual's right to seek legal counsel.

If the person wishes to contest their arrest and potential extradition, many states specify that he or she may do so by pursuing a writ of habeas corpus.

International Extradition

Treaties between nations govern international extraditions. Extradition treaties differ as to which crimes render someone eligible for extradition. Further, each nation to an extradition treaty generally enacts its own laws dictating how it will deal with extradition requests.

Extradition proceedings begin with a request from one nation to another. The receiving nation then looks to its treaty obligations to the requesting nation and to its own laws on extradition, and decides whether to release the individual in question to the jurisdiction of the requesting nation.

The requesting nation must meet certain procedural requirements. In addition, most nations require that the underlying offense be something that their own laws would consider a crime. Most countries also refuse to extradite individuals over criminal charges of which the person has already been found not guilty.

The U.S. generally will not extradite an individual to a country with which it has no extradition treaty. It will do so, however, in certain cases where such a country requests extradition of an individual alleged to have committed a violent crime against U.S. citizens abroad.

Exceptions to International Extradition

Many nations do not extradite individuals for certain political crimes. These can include treason, sedition, espionage and alleged crimes relating to criticism of political leaders.

Many nations also refuse to extradite people who may face torture or the death penalty in the requesting nation. These nations may extradite the person if the requesting nation provides adequate assurance that the individual's trial and/or punishment will not include torture or the death penalty.

Some nations refuse to extradite their own citizens to other countries. Most often, these nations claim jurisdiction over crimes committed abroad by their citizens and thus may prosecute such crimes themselves.


Extradition laws refer to the process in which one state or nation gives over an individual to another state or nation for criminal trial and/or punishment. Federal law governs when states must extradite fugitives to other states. State courts generally may not delve into the underlying criminal charge for which another state has requested extradition. International extradition most often happens pursuant to extradition treaties between nations, and the laws and procedures of the nation considering the extradition request.

Generally, the law of both nations must consider the actions alleged to constitute a crime. Many nations refuse to extradite for certain political crimes. Other common exceptions to international extradition include refusing to extradite a country's own citizens and refusing to extradite someone who might face torture or the death penalty in the requesting country.

Learn More About Extradition by Talking to an Attorney

There are a number of requirements the government must follow in order to extradite a criminal defendant. While the extradition process can be scary and confusing, you don't have to do it alone. Contact a criminal defense attorney who can help protect your rights and ensure that you'll be presenting the best possible defense.

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