December 9, 2023
At the beginning of March, a woman sat shackled in an orange jumpsuit in a Myrtle Beach courtroom. She is wanted for the murder of her 11-year-old stepson in Colorado but was arrested in Florida.
Can she be tried in Florida for a crime that allegedly occurred in Colorado? Not exactly.
So, how does this work?
In this case, the defendant waived her right to an extradition hearing, which means she will be returned to Colorado to face first-degree murder charges and child abuse.
Extradition isn’t something most people know a lot about, but it’s becoming more and more common in the United States and across Colorado. So it’s an important topic to understand regarding your rights. Here’s what you should know about extradition.
What Is Extradition?
Extradition is a fairly simple concept. If someone commits a crime someplace like Denver and then flees to another state, like South Carolina, then they can be brought back to Colorado to face charges.
The governor of Colorado sends a governor’s warrant to the governor of South Carolina, requesting that local police arrest and hold the fugitive until they can be transferred back to Colorado.
The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act
It’s important to remember that each state is sovereign, meaning it creates its own laws. The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act helps states to navigate individual states’ rules around extraditing fugitives.
States are more easily able to work together so that criminals can’t escape prosecutions simply by going from one state where the crime was committed to another.
This law outlines uniform procedures that should be followed by law enforcement agencies to return fugitives or to request an arrest of a fugitive.
Processes and Procedures of Extradition
As mentioned, there are certain processes and procedures that must be adhered to under the law. If a state wants to extradite a fugitive from another state, then they must:
Procure a Governor’s Warrant
In order for someone to be extradited to another state, the state requesting extradition must produce a written document for the state in which the fugitive currently resides. This document is called a governor’s warrant and it is an extradition request signed off on by the state’s governor. It ensures that the proper procedures of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act have been met.
The warrant is listed with the U.S. National Crime Information Center so that any police agency in the U.S. can arrest the fugitive if they come into contact with them.
Local law enforcement can arrest the fugitive once the governor’s warrant has been filed. They can hold them until the state where the crime was committed can arrange a transfer so they may face prosecution for their crimes.
After someone has been arrested under a governor’s warrant, they are allowed to request a procedural hearing in front of a judge. This hearing is referred to as a Writ of Habeas Corpus. This hearing won’t examine the innocence or guilt of the person but merely ensures that that proper extradition procedures are being followed. At this hearing, the defendant can also waive extradition or attempt to fight it.
A defendant is entitled under the U.S. Constitution, specifically the sixth amendment, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against them. So, the state providing the hearing will let the defendant know of:
- The request for extradition
- The criminal charge
- Their right to seek legal counsel
Can the Federal Government Get Involved?
If a person is being accused of murder and crosses state lines in an attempt to escape charges, this does give the federal government jurisdiction to get involved in the case. However, unless federal prosecutors have a particular interest in a case, they are likely to leave it to the state agencies for handling.
It’s usually in the best interest of the defendant not to fight extradition charges and be returned to the state to face trial. This reduces the chances of calling federal attention to yourself, and federal prosecution is always riskier than working with the state.
If you are ever facing expedition for criminal charges, the best thing you can do is to hire a criminal defense attorney. This also applies to anyone living outside of Colorado wanted for charges in the state. Remember, you can be arrested at any time, which is why having a lawyer on your side to help guide you through the process of extradition can give you a head start on the process.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.