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What does extradition mean and what does it involve?

Anyone slightly familiar with TV crime dramas have probably heard about the subject of extradition. It usually comes up in connection with a case in which a crime is alleged to have been committed in one state and police in another state have picked up a suspect in the case. It is through the process of extradition that the defendant is handed over for possible prosecution.

As the use of the word "process" suggests, extradition is not automatic. So, if a person happens to be arrested in Arkansas on a warrant from another state, legal procedures aimed at guaranteeing the protection of rights of the accused have to be followed.

We are writing about this now because of a recent story that made headlines. The gist of the story was that a 77-year-old man had been picked up by police in Arkansas on charges of rape and sexual abuse. The alleged crimes purportedly involved abuse of four girls and took place some time ago in Iowa. The man used to be a college professor in that state. At last word, he was being held in jail on a bond of $150,000. Extradition to Iowa may have already happened, or it may be pending.

In the United States, extradition is under the purview of federal law. According to the Constitution, a person charged in one state with any of a variety of crimes, including a felony, who is caught by authorities in another state, must be turned over for prosecution in the state where the crimes took place.

The governor of the prosecuting state has to make a formal request for the fugitive and the court of the arresting state has to review the request. Several hearings could be required.

If the request documents are in order, a criminal charge is on the books, the suspect named in the charge and the extradition are the same and the defendant is in fact a fugitive, extradition can be granted.

If the defendant wishes to challenge the arrest and requested transfer, that can be done through the seeking of a writ of habeas corpus.

Many rules protect the rights of the accused, but they can only be exercised if they are fully understood.

Source: FindLaw, "Extradition," accessed Aug. 24, 2016

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