Enforcing Criminal Indictments Across State and International Borders

If a person crosses state lines or leaves the country while under indictment for, or after conviction of, a criminal offense, a process known as extradition allows authorities in another jurisdiction to take the person into custody and return them. Between states, extradition is governed by the U.S. Constitution. At the international level, extradition involves treaties with individual nations, which can produce unexpected results. Earlier this year, for example, an Irish court refused a request to extradite a person to the U.S., finding that the person would likely face “inhuman and degrading treatment” in the U.S. prison system.The Extradition Clause, U.S. Const. Art. IV, § 2, cl. 2, states that a person charged “with Treason, Felony, or other Crime,” if they leave the state where the charges are pending, must be returned to that state if they “flee from Justice” to another state. For most of the nation’s history, this was not viewed as a binding obligation on a state government. In Puerto Rico v. Branstad, 483 U.S. 219 (1987), however, the Supreme Court held that federal courts have the authority to enforce interstate extradition requests. This effectively made extradition mandatory by state governments, since one state’s refusal to extradite a defendant simply meant the other state could go to federal court.

State and federal statutes direct law enforcement to comply with interstate extradition requests. See, e.g. 18 U.S.C. § 3182, Tex. Code Crim. P. Art. 51.01 et seq. Under Texas law, a request from the governor of another state obligates law enforcement officers to assist in apprehending a person who has fled to Texas. Magistrates are authorized to issue arrest warrants upon receipt of a complaint stating the person’s name, the state seeking extradition, the alleged offense, the fact that the person has fled to Texas, and the fact that the offense violates the laws of the requesting state. Texas law enforcement officials are not obligated to detain a person or hold them to bail on behalf of the other state for more than 90 days. Under federal law, the limit is 30 days.

The U.S. has extradition treaties with over 100 foreign countries. The treaty with Mexico, recorded at TIAS 9656, 31 U.S.T. 5059 (Jan. 25, 1980), and amended by TIAS 12897 (May 21, 2001), establishes specific procedures for extradition requests. They must go through diplomatic channels and must include a description of the alleged offense and the facts of the case, the text of the relevant statutes, and information that would assist authorities in locating the defendant. Neither country is obligated to grant a request unless the offense is punishable under the laws of both countries by at least one year in prison. The country receiving the request must conduct its own probable cause evaluation. See In re Extradition of Diaz Medina, 210 F.Supp.2d 813 (N.D. Tex. 2002).

The request for extradition from Ireland involved a person charged with terrorism-related offenses under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1028 and 2339A. He reportedly argued to the Irish court that the potential punishment in the U.S.—up to 45 years’ imprisonment—was vastly greater than it would be in Ireland, and that he would likely face solitary confinement in a “supermax” prison. The court found that this would not meet Irish constitutional standards.

These blog posts are meant to be illustrative only. Unless expressly stated to the contrary herein, these matters are not the result of any legal work of Michael J. Brown, but are used to communicate a particular point of view. Michael J. Brown does not claim credit for any legal work done by any lawyer or law firm either generally or specifically, with respect to the matters contained in this blog.

For more than two decades, federal crimes lawyer Michael J. Brown has defended people in west Texas against criminal charges in state and federal courts. Contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.

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