Are You Wanted For A Crime In Another Country? Learn More About Extradition

Posted on: 16 December 2015

If you're a U.S. citizen that's wanted in another country for a crime, do you have anything to fear? Possibly. Many countries have extradition treaties with the United States, which allows them to formally ask the U.S. to surrender you for trial and punishment. Here's what you should know if you're worried about being shipped off to another country for trial:

Countries don't like to extradite their own citizens.

The United States wouldn't extradite its own citizens prior to World War II. Even now, extradition treaties are complicated, and there's no one governing treaty between other countries and the U.S. There are also many countries that the U.S. does not have extradition treaties with, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and China.

In reality, most countries don't like to extradite their own citizens. For example, France steadfastly refused to extradite its citizen, movie director Roman Polanski back to the U.S. after his conviction for statutory rape in 1977 despite an extradition treaty. The U.S. is no exception. It frequently turns down the extradition requests of other countries. The extradition of TV reality star Duane "Dog" Chapman, to Mexico, for example, took several turns through the U.S. legal system until his extradition eventually fell apart on the grounds that the statute of limitations on the crime had passed.

The rules for extradition are extremely complex.

Several conditions have to be met before you can be extradited from the United States:

  • A judge has to determine if the crime you allegedly committed falls under a treaty to which the U.S. is a party.

  • A determination has to be made that you are the correct person sought by the other country.

  • There has to be a reasonable belief that you are guilty of the crime as charged.

You can attack a request for extradition on any of these points. You are also given an opportunity to show that you shouldn't be deported because you fear being executed without a fair trial, executed for an offense that isn't deserving of execution under U.S. law, or tortured. The U.S. will generally not turn one of its citizens over to another country in those circumstances.

The U.S. will also generally not extradite someone if the crime was political in nature. For example, if you were involved in an anti-government protest, which is a crime in many foreign countries, you won't be extradited for it.

While there are many ways to fight extradition from the United States, don't delay in finding an attorney to represent you if you think that you have legal trouble brewing outside the borders. Even though the U.S. is generally reluctant to turn a citizen over to another country's justice system, it does happen. That makes it important to begin your defense as quickly as possible.

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