With the growing emphasis by Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Offices on international criminal offenses, extradition is a hot area of the law. Individuals charged in international drug offenses, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases, international hacking and computer crime cases, and environmental crimes have faced extradition at an increasing rate. Extradition is simply a request by one country to another country for assistance in arresting and sending an individual to the requesting country for prosecution. An extradition request is often dictated by international extradition treaties between two countries, but if no treaty exists the countries may still agree to cooperation.
Fighting extradition can be an important step in the defense of your case. In fact, some charges and penalties are not authorized in the other countries and a person cannot be extradited unless there is “dual criminality.” In other words, if the United States criminalizes conduct, but the country they are requesting assistance from does not then the person will not be extradited to face prosecution. The United States also may not charge an individual with additional crimes once they have been extradited under the rule of “specialty.” Many countries do not extradite individuals to face penalties of death or life imprisonment. These are all beneficial to the potential outcome of the criminal case.
Fighting extradition begins with reviewing the international extradition treaty between the countries involved. Each treaty contains specific requirements for extradition to proceed, and an experienced attorney can determine whether all of the legal formalities have been met before moving forward. The government must file specific documents through authorized representatives before an extradition can proceed. Those documents often include details of the criminal conduct, the specific charges they seek to prosecute, and the specific identity of the individual being requested. If the government cannot satisfy the requirements of dual criminality, prove identity or fail to provide adequate factual reasons for extradition the requests may be denied.
As in most criminal proceedings the government must meet a certain standard to proceed. For extradition the government must show probable cause to effectuate extradition. Probable cause is proof that a person is likely to have done what the government alleges but is not a certainty. Probable cause can be shown using witness statements without the benefit of confronting the person who made the statements. However, if you are able to present evidence that the statements are unreliable a judge may deny the request for extradition.
Even if you are not successful at stopping extradition, you have appellate options and may also argue that extradition is being requested for political reasons or in violation of human rights. Those arguments may stop the extradition process if an argument can be made that ulterior motives are behind the request.
Ultimately, fighting international extradition requests can have a number of benefits even if extradition is granted. Those benefits include obtaining significant information about the potential charges, limiting the charges that may be prosecuted and reducing the potential penalties that may be imposed for any criminal conduct. Extradition is a complex area of law, but an experienced attorney can provide a number of specific benefits even if extradition is granted.