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UPDATED: Oct 10, 2012
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International extradition refers to the formal process by which an individual is delivered from the country where he or she is located, the requested country, to the requesting countryin order to face prosecution, or if already convicted, to serve a sentence. The participants in extradition are therefore the two countries and the individual who is the subject of the proceedings. The process is regulated by treaty (a written agreement between two or more political authorities) and conducted between the Federal Government of the United States and the government of a foreign country.
Generally, U.S. extradition laws may be found in Title 18 of the United States Code. Under Title 18, Section 3184, extradition may be granted only where there is a treaty present addressing extradition. Some countries grant extradition without a treaty. Further, the 1996 amendments to Title 18, Sections 3181 and 3184, permit the United States to extradite, without regard to the existence of a treaty, persons (other than citizens, nationals or permanent residents of the United States), who have committed crimes of violence against nationals of the United States in foreign countries.
The U.S. Department of State publishes a list of bilateral treaties and international agreements(including extradition treaties) between the United States and a host of foreign nations at the beginning of each year.
Most countries will deny extradition requests if, in the government’s opinion, the suspect is sought for a political crime. Many countries, such as Mexico, Canada and most European nations, will not allow extradition if the death penalty may be imposed on the suspect, unless they are assured that the death sentence will not subsequently be passed or carried out.
These restrictions are normally clearly spelled out in the extradition treaties. They are, however, controversial in the United States, where the death penalty is practiced in some states, as it is seen by many as an attempt by foreign nations to interfere with the U.S. criminal justice system. In contrast, pressures by the U.S. government on these countries to change their laws, or even sometimes to ignore their laws, is perceived by many in those nations as an attempt by the United States to interfere with their sovereign right to manage justice within their own borders.
If you or someone you know faces extradition for a crime, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.