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Don’t Get Carried Away By Federal Extradition Laws!

by | Jul 5, 2023 | Criminal Law

Extradition in the United States is a simple idea with a complex execution. Today we shall discuss extradition in the US and what you need to know should you find yourself in the midst of US extradition proceedings in a Florida court.

In a nutshell, extradition is the process by which an individual is transferred from one jurisdiction to another for the purpose of prosecution or to serve a sentence handed down by a court in that jurisdiction.

The laws governing US extradition may be found in the various treaties the US has with other countries. The treaties define the crimes for which extradition will be considered and the process by which extradition from the United States will be accomplished.

Often these treaties include exceptions, such as the rule of double criminality, which means that the crime for which an individual is suspected or convicted of in the overseas jurisdiction must be a crime in the United States, and vice versa. Other exceptions include extraditions sought for political prisoners and extraditions in which human rights violations may occur in the requesting jurisdiction.

The United States has extradition treaties with 116 countries as of 2022. However, it does not have extradition treaties with several major countries, including the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, Cuba, and Vietnam. Additionally, as the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), the United States has no extradition process with those countries either. Nor does the United States have extradition treaties with Palestine, Somaliland, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Transnistria, and a handful of other countries that it does not recognize as sovereign states.

Although the United States has no extradition treaties with those countries, it does not mean that extraditions to those countries cannot happen, as occasionally individuals are extradited back and forth for diplomatic reasons. Typically such extraditions come with strings attached, usually in the form of reciprocal extradition either at the time or at a later date. Also, the existence of an extradition treaty does not necessarily mean that an extradition will happen, as some European countries have a policy of not extraditing individuals outside the European Union.

The crimes for which the United States will extradite individuals to another country vary depending upon the country, but they typically include the following:

  • Trafficking, sale, and production of illegal drugs
  • Violent crimes like murder, rape, and manslaughter
  • Property crimes like burglary, arson, and theft
  • Organized crime
  • White collar crimes like bribery, fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement
  • Crimes against government like espionage, terrorism, and treason

As the United States is one of the last countries on Earth with the death penalty, this often limits extraditions from other countries on those grounds.

Also complicating extraditions to the United States is the fact that criminal prosecutions are almost always carried out by the individual states, but extradition treaties are entered into by the federal government, as individual states are forbidden from making treaties with other countries. In addition, due to federalism, agreements made between the federal government and foreign countries are not binding on individual states.

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