Fugitive from Justice Charge in Colorado (CRS 16-19-103)

CRS 16-19-103 is the Colorado code section that defines the duties of the Governor of Colorado when it comes to fugitives from justice.

Duties of the Governor

Under Colorado law, the Colorado governor is required to:

  • have arrested; and
  • deliver up to;
  • the executive authority of another state;
  • a person charged with treason, felony, or other crime;
  • who has fled from justice.

This duty typically comes up as a result of an extradition request from another state.

What is Extradition?

Colorado extradition laws provide the legal framework for bringing back a "fugitive from justice" to the state in which he or she allegedly committed a crime. A person may also be extradited if he or she:

Simply put, the Colorado governor is required to comply with another state's request for Colorado to:

  • arrest a person currently in Colorado, and
  • send that person back to the requesting state.

Federal Law

Federal law impacts how extradition works, and so it also impacts CRS 16-19-103. Under the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, the Colorado governor is required to:

  • read and examine a warrant from the requesting state;
  • sign the warrant if all requirements are met; and
  • order the arrest and transportation of the fugitive from justice.

Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about fugitives from justice for Colorado residents:

Extradition colorado
Extradition is the legal process of bringing back a "fugitive from justice" to the state in which he or she allegedly committed a crime.

1. What is a fugitive from justice in Colorado?

CRS 16-19-103 is the Colorado code section that defines the duties of the Governor of Colorado when it comes to fugitives from justice.

According to Colorado law:

Subject to the provisions of this article, the provisions of the constitution of the United States controlling, and any act of congress enacted in pursuance thereof, it is the duty of the governor of this state to have arrested and delivered up to the executive authority of any other state of the United States any person charged in that state with treason, felony, or other crime, who has fled from justice and is found in this state. 1

The law may appear complex after a first reading, so this article will break it down.

1.1 What does it mean to "flee" from justice?

A person can "flee" from justice and become a "fugitive" in a number of different ways:

  • fail to appear in court;
  • fail to answer to a lawful summons or subpoena;
  • flee from police by running;
  • leave the state to avoid prosecution; or
  • leave the state in violation of the terms of probation, parole, or bond.

Any time a criminal defendant, or suspect, attempts to avoid law enforcement or the court system, this may be considered "fleeing" from justice. 2

2. What are the duties of the Governor of Colorado under this law?

Under Colorado law, the Colorado governor is required to:

  • have arrested; and
  • deliver up to;
  • the executive authority of another state;
  • a person charged with treason, felony, or other crime;
  • who has fled from justice. 3

This duty typically comes up as a result of an extradition request from another state.

3. What is extradition?

Extradition is the legal process of bringing back a "fugitive from justice" to the state in which he or she allegedly committed a crime.4 A person may also be extradited if he or she:

  • violates bail,
  • violates the conditions of probation, or
  • violates the conditions of parole.

Simply put, if another state requests the arrest of a person currently in Colorado and requests that the same person be sent to the requesting state, the Colorado governor is required to comply with the request.

3.1 When does an extradition request typically occur?

An extradition request typically comes from another state for serious crimes, such as high-level felonies. It is rare that low-level felonies or misdemeanors result in an extradition request.5

Example: John is wanted for murder in California, but is currently living in Colorado. During a routine traffic stop (John was speeding), the Colorado officer learns of the governor's warrant for extradition to California. The officer arrests John, and transportation arrangements are made to get John to California to face trial.

It is very common for extradition to begin after a routine traffic stop, like in the example above. It is the duty of the Colorado governor to ensure that the fugitive from justice is taken to the requesting state.

4. How does federal law affect a fugitive from justice?

Federal law impacts how extradition works, and so it also impacts CRS 16-19-103. Under the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, the Colorado governor is required to:

  • read and examine a warrant from the requesting state;
  • sign the warrant if all requirements are met; and
  • order the arrest and transportation of the fugitive from justice.

4.1 What is a writ of habeas corpus hearing?

Once the warrant is signed by the Colorado governor, local law enforcement will arrest the person listed if found in this state. Once arrested, that person is entitled to a brief procedural hearing in front of the judge of the state that did the arrest.

The hearing is called a Writ of Habeas Corpus hearing. The hearing is designed to:

  • ensure that proper procedures were followed
  • under the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act
  • during the extradition process.

The hearing is not designed to determine the guilt or innocence of the person accused of a crime.

5. What happens if I am extradited?

If you are considered a "fugitive from justice" and you are extradited, you will be transported to the requesting state. The arrangements are usually made through cooperation between Colorado law enforcement and the requesting state's law enforcement officers.

This often means:

  • long trips in a jail van;
  • overnight stays in other jails or prisons (often in "not so great" conditions);
  • long trips in crowded vehicles, often while in handcuffs or other restraints; and
  • possible responsibility for the financial cost of transportation.
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For questions about fugitives from justice or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. CRS 16-19-103 (Fugitives from Justice).
  2. Blackburn v. Johnson, 647 P.2d 238 (1982) (Colorado Supreme Court en banc) ("Under circumstances wherein defendant was arrested and charged with being a fugitive from justice, all that is required for extradition is record of conviction and statement by Governor of requisition state that person sought has violated terms of his probation.")
  3. Morris v. Nelson, 659 P.2d 1386 (1983) ("The governor has a duty to extradite a fugitive, but if the demanding state incorrectly alleges that an individual is a fugitive, the Governor has no authority to extradite that individual as a fugitive.")
  4. CRS 16-19-104 (Form of Demand).
  5. Travis v. People, 135 Colo. 141 (1957) ("A judgment, conviction or sentence, is sufficient to support extradition.")

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