Extradition in Arizona is the process of bringing criminal suspects to where they are being accused of committing a crime. Extradition can involve interstate, intrastate, or even international issues where an Arizonan is facing charges in a different state, Arizona county, or a different country. Subjects of extradition can fight the process by challenging the extradition warrant.
1. What is extradition?
Extradition is the way that law enforcement pursues criminal charges or other legal violations against someone who is out-of-state.
The process uses the following terminology:
- the person being accused of a crime or violation is a “fugitive from justice,”
- the state or country where the alleged crime occurred and that is using extradition to bring the fugitive from justice back is the “home” or the “demanding” state, and
- the state or country where the fugitive from justice is located is the “asylum.”
The fugitive from justice does not have to be someone who is actively fleeing from the police. They are often unaware that there is an arrest warrant or a bench warrant out for them in another state or country.
There are 3 types of extradition cases:
- international extradition, where the home and the asylum states are different countries,
- interstate extradition, where the home and the asylum are different states in the U.S., and
- intrastate extradition, where the home and asylum are different counties in Arizona.
2. How does international extradition work?
When the U.S. and another country are the home or asylum countries, then the extradition process is handled by international treaties. The United States has extradition treaties with over 100 countries, mainly in Europe and South America.
These cases involve complicated issues of international law, especially if the fugitive from justice is someone who is seeking asylum in America.
These cases are also very rare.
3. What about interstate extradition cases?
When the home and asylum states are Arizona and another state in the U.S., it is interstate extradition.
Both state and federal laws apply to these situations.
The U.S. Constitution requires other states to extradite fugitives from justice when the home state demands it.1 The federal Extradition Act outlines the extradition process.2 Additionally, nearly all states, including Arizona,3 have adopted the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA), which provides detailed rules for what the demanding and asylum states can do.
3.1 Arizona is the demanding state
For defendants who allegedly committed a crime while in Arizona and then left the state, Arizona would be the demanding state. It would be requesting that another state extradite the defendant to face charges.
If the charges are severe enough to warrant the effort of extradition, Arizona will follow the procedures set out by the UCEA and send a formal application to the governor’s office in the asylum state. This application would include:
- the fugitive’s name,
- the criminal charges or probation violations they are facing in Arizona,
- the time, location, and circumstances of the offense, and
- where the fugitive is believed to be, currently.
It will often be accompanied by a copy of the grand jury indictment or criminal complaint.
If the governor in the asylum state decides that extradition to Arizona is appropriate, his or her office will issue a governor’s warrant to arrest the fugitive and hold them for up to 30 days.4 The state of Arizona will then send an agent to take the fugitive into custody and bring them back to Arizona. During this time, the defendant can be released from confinement on bail.
In cases where the fugitive is in prison in the asylum state for an offense committed there, the Arizona governor’s office may agree with the asylum state’s governor to perform the extradition after the fugitive has served their sentence in the asylum state.
3.2 Arizona is the asylum
When the fugitive from justice is in Arizona and another state is demanding extradition, then the Arizona governor’s office will receive the UCEA application. Before issuing a governor’s warrant for the fugitive’s arrest, the Office of the Arizona Governor has to see:
- evidence that the fugitive was in the demanding state at the time of the offense,
- evidence that the fugitive is now in Arizona,
- certified copies showing that the fugitive is lawfully charged with an indictment or criminal information supported by probable cause, or for a parole or probation violation, and
- either a photograph or fingerprints identifying the fugitive.5
If these requirements are satisfied, the Arizona governor’s office will issue a governor’s warrant for the fugitive’s arrest. Once the arrest is executed, the fugitive will be held for 30 days for the demanding state to send someone to bring the fugitive back.6 During this time, the defendant can be released on bail.
4. What are the extradition laws for intrastate cases in Arizona?
Intrastate extraditions are between home and demanding counties in Arizona. These extradition requests do not have to go through Arizona’s governor. They are often as simple as one county sheriff’s office arranging for the transport of the fugitive back to their county on the outstanding warrant.
5. How can a criminal defense attorney fight the process?
There are 2 important ways for a criminal defense lawyer to fight extradition under Arizona law and challenge the extradition warrant:
- challenging the identity of the person to be extradited, and
- filing a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the legality of the detention.
Both of these defenses will trigger an extradition hearing. At this hearing, a defense lawyer from a local law firm can present evidence that:
- the person being held is not actually the same person listed in the extradition application, or
- the fugitive is being detained illegally.
Note that neither defense challenges the underlying criminal case. Whether it is a felony charge or a misdemeanor, extradition is merely a formal process that brings a fugitive back to the jurisdiction of the alleged crime. There is no room in the extradition proceedings to raise legal defenses to the actual charges. Those defenses can only be presented at the court date in the requesting state or the requesting country.
Additionally, a criminal defense attorney can help defendants who are facing extradition make an informed decision about how to react. In some cases, it may be wise to waive extradition and voluntarily return to the demanding state. Judges and prosecutors may view this decision favorably. It can also avoid the period of incarceration that comes with extradition and can give defendants time to put their affairs in order.