What to Know About Extradition Warrants

When someone commits a crime, or is alleged to be that criminal, and they flee to another state or country, the authority of the original jurisdiction can ask the governing authority of the state or nation where that person fled to for return of that fugitive for trial. This policy is set forth in the U.S. Constitution and in international treaties.

Extradition – the Basics

The basic meaning of the term “Extradition” is to transfer an alleged criminal from one state or nation back to the state or nation where the crime was committed. This procedure is included in the U.S. Constitution under Article 4 (The States) Section 2 (State Citizens, Extradition) and in treaties between about 100 nations (listed in the Federal Criminal Code and Rules, 18 U.S.C. § 3181). When first added to the U.S. Constitution, this process was intended to facilitate the return of slaves.

Under the Extradition clause in the U.S., if someone is accused of, or proven to have committed, a crime in one state, the authority of that state (usually the Governor) can issue a warrant demanding the authority of the state to which the alleged criminal fled that the fugitive be returned to the original jurisdiction. The governor can delegate signing of the warrant to another person. There are special rules that apply, especially under international treaties for extradition, if a death penalty is the potential outcome.

  • Extradition – State to State – Two pieces of regulation apply here: the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act and the Uniform Extradition and Rendition Act. These acts require that when a governor of one state receives a properly executed and delivered request from the governor of another state to return a suspected or proven criminal, action must follow. A warrant is then issued by the governor or another authority the governor appoints. The warrant allows for arrest and return of the fugitive. The fugitive must appear before a judge prior to extradition.
  • Extradition – International – For international extradition procedures, the Secretary of State is involved. A judge or magistrate must first certify that a fugitive is extraditable. The Secretary of State may either affirm or deny extradition. One reason for refusal of extradition is based on humanitarian grounds. If the fugitive is found to be not extraditable, the Secretary of State cannot enforce extradition.

What is a Warrant?

In legal terms, a Warrant is a document of assurance, or instrument, issued by a magistrate or governor of a state or nation that directs another authority in a different jurisdiction to make an arrest of an alleged criminal. It is an important part of criminal law, because it helps to recover criminals who are moving around to different states or nations to avoid prosecution and penalties.

A Warrant must contain specific details about the fugitive to be valid, and it must name the demanding state, include specific details about the request from that state, and specify the crime the fugitive is charged with in that jurisdiction. The warrant will also contain details about how it is to be implemented and that the fugitive must appear before a judge.

Issuance of a warrant gives the demanding state authority over that fugitive and allows it to try that fugitive under its jurisdiction. To be official and enforceable, a warrant must be issued by the proper authority in the state or nation where the crime was committed and where that authority holds jurisdiction over the criminal action. The warrant must then be delivered to the right authority in another jurisdiction for processing. At that point, the request should be fulfilled by police or other authorities in the asylum state. They then have legal authority to capture and hold the alleged criminal for further action, according to details provided in the warrant.

Execution of the Warrant

Once the individual named in the warrant is caught, officials from the original jurisdiction must come and pick up that person for return. The fugitive then will appear before a judge prior to being handed over to agents of the demanding state. Any deviation from proper legal procedures can potentially be used by the criminal defense attorney to halt extradition. A warrant is unenforceable if it was issued under an invalid statute. An order of extradition cannot be appealed, and bail generally is not allowed if a warrant has been issued. It can be reviewed at a habeas corpus hearing. The burden of proof with regard to warrant enforceability is placed upon the fugitive.

Massachusetts Extradition Warrants

The state of Massachusetts has several types of warrants for use in the state and to recover fugitives who flee elsewhere. The most common is a bench warrant, issued when someone fails to appear in a local court in a criminal or civil case. These are issued by a state judge. Another type is an arrest warrant, where the police will search and arrest the designated person.

A warrant for extradition back to Massachusetts can be issued by the state and used to capture and return fugitives who allegedly commit crime in this state but then flee to another state for asylum. The state honors Extradition Warrants submitted for processing by other states. Details about this process in Chapter 276 include the following:

  • Section 12 allows the governor to surrender the fugitive to authorities of a demanding state.
  • Section 14 details what must be submitted to allow for interstate rendition of the fugitive, including specific warrant information about the alleged criminal and facts about the crime in the demanding state.
  • Section 15 requires investigation of the demand.
  • Section 16 details how a Massachusetts warrant must be made by the governor to comply with the demanding state’s requesting warrant.
  • Section 19 includes information about the rights of the fugitive, hearing before a judge, and punishment for violation of fugitive rights.

Criminal Defense Attorney Services

Anyone who has an Extradition Warrant issued for their return can seek help from an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney. Our law firm offers a variety of Criminal Defense Attorney Services, including defense against warrants. There are many ways to fight against execution of a warrant, and having an attorney who thoroughly understands this area of law fighting for your rights is the best way to protect your freedom and future.

If you have questions about extradition warrants, please contact me now.

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