Extradition is the judicial procedure governing the return of a person from the state where he has been arrested as a fugitive to another state that has requested his return to answer an indictment. It begins with an indictment in the originating state where the alleged crime occurred. The fugitive is no longer in that state, but arrested in another state, usually on an arrest warrant placed with the National Crime Information Center. The originating state, sometimes called the “home” state confirms the fugitive status of the arrested person and the willingness of the prosecuting agency to extradite, or bring the wanted person back for trial. A fugitive arrest warrant is issued. It is similar to a criminal complaint. The fugitive is brought before a judge and advised of the charge. Bail may be set and the person released until the next stage, the issuance of a governor’s warrant. A governor’s warrant is issued by the home state governor after reviewing the documents in support of the extradition request. When a governor’s warrant is presented to the state holding the accused, a decision must be made in that court whether to extradite. If the request is denied, the accused will be released by the holding state. However, the accused is safe only if he remains in the holding state. The decision not to extradite does not bar extradition if the accused is found elsewhere in the United States or prosecution if the person is returns to his home state.
The key issues at an extradition hearing before a judge in the Superior Court are whether there is a valid charge in the home state and whether the proofs establish the identity of the fugitive as the person actually accused in the State requesting his return.
Extradition hearings are extremely important matters that can determine a client’s future. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to block extradition by challenging the proofs that are submitted to prove identity. Finger print experts and witnesses can often be utilized if the client denies that he is the fugitive. On the other hand, if there is solid proof that the client is the person accused in the home state, for example, by fingerprints or DNA, then the lawyer can help the client locate a criminal defense attorney in the home state to negotiate the client’s return to the home state, bail, and the preparation of a proper defense.
Undoubtedly, a criminal defense attorney is a shield protecting a client from long incarceration awaiting extradition, and in the effort to prevent extradition to a home state to face an unjust prosecution.