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Here's How Extradition Works

Beyond Borders: How Extradition Works-1

Extradition is a process dating back hundreds of years to when countries would work together to pursue criminals who crossed their borders. While it's an old idea, extradition is an important aspect of the global justice system helping to maintain peace and ensure all crimes, including those committed across borders, have consequences.

Fast forward to today, the United States has agreements with more than 100 countries to make extradition possible. But even with these agreements, the process can be tricky and involve political disagreements. Together, let's explore what extradition is and how it works in the United States.


What is Extradition?

Extradition is a legal process where one country surrenders a person to another country for trial or punishment for crimes committed in the requesting country.

In the United States, extradition is treaty-based, meaning the United States must have an extradition treaty with the requesting country to act on the appeal.


How Does Extradition Work?

How extradition works depends on whether the requested person is coming to or from the United States.

If someone needs to be extradited from the United States, it starts with the foreign government asking the U.S. State Department for help. They provide necessary paperwork with details about the person, the crimes they are accused of, and evidence. If there's a risk the person might try to escape, foreign authorities can ask for a temporary arrest and detention while they gather more information. The secretary of state then decides if the case should be passed on to the Justice Department, which looks at the case to ensure it follows the treaty rules.


If everything checks out, an arrest warrant is issued, the person is arrested, and they go before a judge. The judge decides if there's enough evidence to believe the person committed the crime. If so, the extradition is certified, with the Secretary of State making the final decision.

For extraditions to the United States, a state or federal prosecutor works with law enforcement to decide if it's worth the significant costs. They then submit an application to the Justice Department, which reviews it. If the Justice Department approves, the application goes to the State Department. After the State Department gives its approval, the request is sent to the U.S. embassy, which forwards it to authorities in the other country. The process there varies, but it usually follows a path similar to how crimes are handled in the United States. Once the country agrees, the U.S. Marshals Service often brings the person back to the United States.


Extradition Alternative: Interpol Red Notice

With a valid warrant or court order, any of the international police organization's nearly 200 member countries can request a notice for a wanted individual. This notice, known as an Interpol Red Notice, serves as an alert to police and border agents worldwide. Member countries can then, at their discretion, arrest the subject of the notice and initiate legal proceedings over extradition.

From extensive paperwork to the active roles of law enforcement and foreign legal systems, international justice often depends on collaboration. Extradition, an important part of this effort, makes sure people can be exchanged between countries smoothly.

Reference: Council on Foreign Relations

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