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Understanding California's Extradition Laws

Extradition is a legal process in which a "fugitive from justice" is returned to the state – or country – in which he or she is wanted for any of the following reasons:

  • Allegations of committing a criminal offense;
  • Violations of the terms of bail, probation, or parole; or
  • Escape from incarceration.

(Appleyard v Massachusetts (1906) 203 US 222, 227)

The motive for the person's departure is irrelevant (In re Murdock (1936) 5 C2d, 644, 55 P2d 843), and the person need not have knowledge of the charges. (Marini v Gibson (Ga 1996) 478 SE2d 767). According to California Penal Code sections 1548-1558, extradition is the process of handing over by one state to another of a suspect wanted for criminal prosecution.

By law, the state seeking to extradite the suspect (the "demanding state") must pick up the defendant within 90 days or else the suspect must be released. After a suspect is arrested in the state where he is found (the "asylum state"), he will be taken to jail. He will sit in jail for several days before he is brought before a judge for his arraignment on a “fugitive complaint,” in a new, separate extradition case.

At the first court date, the suspect will be informed of the reason for his arrest and that he is wanted in another state. The suspect must then decide to fight or waive extradition. If the suspect makes the wrong decision, he may not be eligible to post bail - that is why it is so important for the suspect's family or friends to consult with an experienced Los Angeles extradition lawyer prior to the first hearing.

Awaiting Extradition To Another State?

There are only two choices regarding your extradition:

  1. Waiver of Extradition Procedures – A suspect may waive the extradition process and consent to be voluntarily transferred (in custody) to the demanding state. The suspect must sign and execute a written waiver in court. After that, the suspect must sit in jail and wait until he is picked up by law enforcement personnel who will then return him to the demanding state. That usually takes two weeks to a month before he is picked up. The suspect cannot post bail unless permitted to do by the demanding state. Posting bail could be a viable option for the suspect, depending on the criminal charges, because once the suspect posts bail he could then return voluntarily and out of custody to the demanding state and avoid the entire extradition proceedings; or
  1. Challenge the Extradition Procedures - If a suspect fights the extradition warrant then the suspect will be given an identity hearing ten days after the initial court appearance. At this point, bail cannot be posted. At the hearing, the prosecutor must establish probable cause to believe the person named in the warrant is, in fact, the same person named in the fugitive complaint. If the prosecutor prevails then the Governor's Warrant will be issued from the demanding state and that process can take up to 30 days plus an additional 60 days to complete. In the interim, the suspect sits in county jail waiting for law enforcement to pick him up and return him to face prosecution in the other state. If the Governor’s warrant is never produced, then the suspect is released from the Los Angeles County Jail – however, the warrant is still outstanding, meaning the suspect can be arrested again at any time and anywhere.

Experienced Extradition Attorneys

If someone you know is detained and arrested in Los Angeles and awaiting Extradition to another state, we can help. We have successfully represented numerous clients who were arrested in Los Angeles, with extraditable warrants in other states, and have resolved their cases in the most convenient way possible. Extradition proceedings can be confusing and intimidating; Do not attempt to handle extradition alone. Let us put our over 75 years of combined criminal law experience to work for you.

Contact our office at (213) 481-6811 for a free consultation with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer.

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