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Understanding how extradition works

Police in Lackawanna County recently arrested a woman who had been accused of selling a controlled substance in Cortland, N.Y. According to news reports, the woman was extradited from Pennsylvania to New York to stand trial. Such occurrences are common - a person is accused of committing a crime in State A and flees to State B, where the person is arrested. Soon after the arrest, the suspect is physically transported to State A and incarcerated pending a trial. How does this process work?

The initial answer lies in Article IV Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which provides 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.

The answer is fairly straightforward: a person who flees justice in one state and who is arrested in another state must be returned to the state where the crime was committed. The process, however, has a few technical requirements.

First, the alleged offense must be a crime in both the requesting state and the arresting state. Second, the burden is on the requesting state to prove the person arrested in State B is in fact the person accused of the crime in State A. The request for extradition can be made either before or after the suspect is arrested in State B. Usually, the extradition request is issued by a court in State A to a court in State B. The court in State B uses a short checklist to determine whether extradition is appropriate. The documents requesting extradition must be in order, the suspect named in the extradition request must have been charged with the crime in the requesting state, and the suspect must be a fugitive in the requesting state. If the suspect wishes to challenge the extradition request, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is the usual means.

Anyone who is the subject of an extradition request may wish to retain legal counsel. Sometimes, the state in which the crime was committed has different laws than the state where the arrest occurred, and a trial in the requesting state may have different procedures or penalties than the arresting state. An experienced criminal defense counsel can provide helpful advice on resisting extradition.

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