Extradition is the legal process of bringing back fugitives from justice to the state in which they allegedly committed a crime. Whether the fugitives are being sought for extradition into Colorado or extradition out of Colorado, a Governor’s warrant is issued for their arrest. Once the fugitive is apprehended, he or she is entitled to a hearing to contest extradition before being transferred out of state.
Below, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about the extradition process under Colorado law:
- 1. What is extradition?
- 2. What is a Governor’s Warrant?
- 3. What happens after the arrest?
- 4. How do I fight extradition?
- 5. Are there differences between extradition to and from Colorado?
- 6. How long does extradition take?
1. What is extradition?
Extradition is the judicial process of returning a “fugitive from justice” to the state in which he or she allegedly either:
- committed a criminal offense,
- violated bail,
- violated the conditions of probation, or
- violated the conditions of parole.1
The extradition process is unnecessary when an alleged fugitive does not cross state lines. In these cases, local police in the state would already have the authority to search for and arrest the fugitive.
Note that it is not unusual for defendants to be completely unaware that they are even wanted in another state. Sometimes prosecutors take their time to file charges, and many people do not realize they have a warrant until they are pulled over during a traffic stop for a minor driving violation.
2. What is a Governor’s Warrant?
The extradition process of a wanted person begins with a governor’s warrant. When a person is wanted either in or out of the state of Colorado, the state requesting extradition (the “demanding state”) must:
- procure a written document, and
- have it signed by the governor of the state where the fugitive is located (“asylum state”) in accordance with the procedures of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA), 2 and
- list it with the United States National Crime Information Center (NCIC).3
(In some cases, the demanding state issues a “fugitive warrant” first; and then after the suspect is apprehended, the demanding state issues the governor’s warrant. In other cases, the governor’s warrant essentially serves as the fugitive warrant.)
2.1. Which governor signs the arrest warrant?
The governor on the receiving end of the extradition request is the one who signs the governor’s warrant. This means that the state that wants the alleged fugitive must file a request with the governor of the state where the fugitive is currently located.4
For instance, if Utah believes a person lives in or is hiding out in Colorado, the State of Utah will send a governor’s warrant to Colorado. Then the governor of Colorado signs the warrant to permit local law enforcement agencies to pursue and arrest the alleged fugitive.
3. What happens after the arrest?
When alleged fugitives are arrested in the asylum state, they have a short advisement hearing. This is where a judge determines if there is probable cause that the arrestee is indeed the fugitive being sought. This hearing is also where the judge informs the alleged fugitive of the extradition request, the underlying charge, and the legal right to counsel and a habeas corpus hearing (discussed in section 4).
The advisement hearing is also where the alleged fugitive can opt to “waive extradition.” A waiver of extradition means that the alleged fugitive agrees to be transported to the demanding state without putting up a legal fight.
Some people choose a waiver of extradition in order to speed the process along. But in most cases, defense attorneys would advise people never to waive extradition. An experienced attorney may be able to find procedural defects the state made and stop extradition.5
3.1. Can a suspect be released on bail?
It varies case by case.
Some arrest warrants are no-bond warrants, requiring authorities to keep alleged fugitives in custody pending the outcome of the extradition. The asylum state typically keeps alleged fugitives for up to 30 days before the demanding state transports them back. But the asylum state can keep them for up to 90 days as long as the demanding state shows proof that it plans to extradite.6
In others cases, alleged fugitives are released on their own recognizance or on a low bail. If they waive extradition, then they must then surrender themselves to the home state. If they do not waive extradition, then they must appear at all future court hearings pending the outcome of the extradition case.7
4. How do I fight extradition?
Alleged fugitives who wish to fight extradition may file a writ of habeas corpus. This writ contests the legality of their arrest and extradition, typically on the following two grounds:
- The extradition documents themselves are facially invalid and do not follow proper procedure; and/or
- The police arrested the wrong person, and the alleged fugitive is in fact the victim of mistaken identity
The judge will hold a hearing to determine whether or not to grant the writ of habeas corpus. If the court denies it, then the asylum state can finally extradite the alleged fugitive to the demanding state.
Recall that the purpose of the habeas corpus hearing is only to ensure that proper extradition procedures are being followed. The hearing is not designed to determine the guilt or innocence of the arrested person.8
5. Are there differences between extradition to and from Colorado?
Every state is a little different. Therefore, defendants are advised to retain counsel in both the demanding and asylum states to fight extradition and ensure that their rights are being upheld.
Note that if a person in Colorado is facing criminal charges in both Colorado and another state, the Colorado judge can choose to keep the person in state pending the outcome of the Colorado case. Then once it is over, the person can then be extradited from Colorado to the other state.9
6. How long does extradition take?
Extradition can take two or three months, especially if the defendant chooses to fight extradition.
For legal advice about the extradition process or to confidentially discuss your criminal proceedings with one of our Colorado criminal defense lawyers, do not hesitate to contact us. We represent clients facing criminal charges in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities throughout Colorado state. We may be able to negotiate a charge reduction or a dismissal with the district attorney.
Our law firm defends against all types of criminal cases including sexual assault, DUI, domestic violence, child abuse, probation violation, failure to register as a sex offender, and all other felony and misdemeanor charges. We also do record sealing and expungements.
- CRS 16-19-104 (Form of Demand); Layher v. Van Cleave, (1970) 171 Colo. 465, 468 P.2d 32.
- CRS 16-19-103 (Fugitives from Justice); Briddle v. Caldwell, (Colo. 1981) 628 P.2d 613. Currently South Carolina and Missouri are not part of the UCEA.
- United States National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Services. The demanding state is also called “the wanting state”, “the requesting state,” or “the home state.”
- Same as footnote 1.
- CRS 16-19-126.5.
- CRS 16-19-119.5.
- CRS 16-19-117.
- See, for example, Capra v. Miller, (1967) 161 Colo. 448, 422 P.2d 636.
- CRS 16-19-120.