Extradition Laws in California: How They Work
If you are wanted for an alleged crime in one state and are apprehended in another state, the state charging you with a crime will likely seek to have you extradited for trial. Thus, "extradition" is a legal process involving transferring an individual accused of a crime from one state to another.
In other words, it's the process of returning fugitives from justice back to the state where they allegedly committed a crime or violated the terms of their probation, parole, or bail.
There are two types of extradition: extraditing a fugitive into California from another state and extraditing a fugitive from California into another state.
It's common for a defendant in one jurisdiction to be arrested by law enforcement in a different jurisdiction because they ran away to avoid prosecution or were unaware of a pending warrant and relocated to a new area.
This process allows states to bring fugitives back to the jurisdiction where the crime occurred, ensuring individuals face justice for their actions.
In California, the extradition laws are detailed in Penal Code Sections 1548-1558. These laws govern incoming and outgoing extraditions, with specific procedures outlined for each scenario.
In other words, these laws regulate how each state must proceed, whether seeking extradition (demanding state) or responding to the extradition request (asylum state).
Before someone can be extradited, there must be a court hearing to determine the validity of the arrest warrant, which is called a probable cause hearing or a “governor's hearing.”
The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA)
The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) is a legal guideline that standardizes the process of extradition among states in the United States. It was designed to create a uniform, efficient, and effective system for surrendering accused persons from one state to another. California and all but three other states have adopted some form of the UCEA.
The UCEA outlines the processes and requirements for extradition between states. It establishes the procedure for obtaining a governor's warrant, which is necessary for extradition, and the circumstances under which a state can refuse to surrender an individual.
The act aims to ensure that fugitives who have fled from one state to another to avoid prosecution can be returned to the state where the crime was allegedly committed to face charges.
The UCEA establishes clear steps that each state must follow, whether they are the demanding or asylum states when involved in interstate extradition.
For example, suppose a demanding state wants to extradite a fugitive from the asylum state. In that case, they must deliver an indictment or affidavit charging the alleged fugitive with a crime.
The asylum state must then arrest the individual and keep them for up to 30 days until an agent from the demanding state comes to claim them. The asylum state will release the prisoner if no agent comes within the time frame. Here are critical points of the UCEA:
- Demand for Extradition: The executive authority of a demanding state must produce a written application for extradition, demonstrating that the person demanded is indeed a fugitive from justice.
- Identity Verification: The accused has the right to a court hearing where the accused's identity and the charges' validity are verified.
- Rights of the Accused: The UCEA ensures that the accused has the right to legal counsel and can contest the extradition on specific grounds.
- Governor's Warrant: This is a formal request issued by the governor of the asylum state, seeking the arrest and extradition of the fugitive to the demanding state.
- Exemption Cases: Certain scenarios may exempt a person from being extradited, such as when the accused left the demanding state involuntarily or under compulsion.
While the UCEA is a model act, each state can adopt, modify, or reject it. Therefore, extradition laws may vary slightly from state to state.
South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi have not adopted the UCEA but have extradition laws to comply with federal requirements. Thus, it should be noted that extradition is still possible between California and these states, but it may be a more complicated process.
Who Can Be Extradited?
Typically, a state can demand that any of the following persons be extradited once they have been apprehended in another state:
- Someone charged with a crime;
- An escaped prisoner;
- Someone who has “skipped bail;”
- Someone who has violated the terms of their probation or parole; and
- An “unwitting fugitive”—someone who travels to another state unaware they are wanted for a crime or have violated a rule.
How Does Extradition Work in California?
As noted, in the extradition process, the state requesting the extradition of a fugitive is called the demanding state, and the state where the fugitive has been found is called the asylum state.
When California Is the Demanding State
When California requests extradition, it begins with the Governor issuing a requisition to the Governor of the state where the fugitive is located. This document includes details about the accused person, the crime they allegedly committed, and a formal request for their return.
The other state then verifies the legitimacy of the request and, if valid, issues a Governor's warrant for the arrest of the accused if they are not already in custody.
The asylum state follows its guidelines for determining if the extradition demand is valid, typically via a hearing. If the demand is validated, an agent from California travels to the asylum state to transport the fugitive back to California for trial.
But before California demands your return, it must consider the time and expense of bringing you back to this state and the severity of the crime or violation you are accused of. Suppose they decide that extradition is appropriate. In that case, there are some steps they must follow to secure your extradition into California, including the following:
- Issue a proper demand to the asylum state for your return;
- Send an agent to the asylum state within 30 days of arrest to pick you up;
- Bring you back to California to answer to the charges, be sentenced, or be incarcerated.
When California Is the Asylum State
Suppose California is the asylum state. In that case, some steps must be followed to determine whether to extradite you to the demanding state. Notably, just because another state claims you violated its laws does not automatically mean California will return you without an investigation.
When another state demands the extradition of someone found in California, the process is effectively reversed from the description above:
- The Governor of the demanding state sends a demand to the California Governor.
- The California Governor issues a Governor's Warrant to apprehend or produce the fugitive.
- The court holds a probable cause and identification hearing to verify the fugitive's identity and evaluate whether there is sufficient reason for extradition.
- If validated, the fugitive is returned to the demanding state.
Can You Fight Extradition Orders in California?
Yes. When faced with an extradition order, it is possible to challenge the validity of the demand, but sometimes the best legal strategy is a waiver of extradition. The grounds for contesting extradition are limited but may include the following:
- Lack of probable cause;
- Mistaken identity (i.e., you're not the person being sought);
- Errors in the extradition documents; or
- The offense does not qualify for extradition under California law.
Notably, any defenses will probably have to be presented from jail because the extradition process assumes you are guilty since you are considered a fugitive from justice and already fled to avoid prosecution.
However, depending on the case details, your California criminal defense lawyer might be able to negotiate a deal that would permit you to post bail, get released on your own recognizance (O.R. release), voluntarily surrender to the home state, or resolve the case without leaving your current location.
Challenging extradition is a complicated process, so it's best to hire an experienced California criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights and ensure your case is handled appropriately. You can contact our law firm to review the case details by phone or via the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, CA.