Extradition Between States: Law and Process

If the fugitive refuses to sign a waiver of extradition, the original state prepares a request to return the culprit. The office of the initial state's governor makes extradition requests to the asylum state's governor.

Fleeing from one state to another doesn't mean criminals will evade punishment for their alleged crime if caught. States and the federal government can seek to bring criminals to justice through extradition. Extradition laws allow a state to hand someone over to another state for criminal prosecution.

Extradition of persons can occur in one of two ways:

  • Between two states (interstate extradition)
  • Between two countries (international extradition)

Both operate under similar principles. However, the processes and procedures differ for various reasons, such as international affairs.

Read on for more information about interstate extradition. This article covers extradition proceedings, extradition's legal basis, cases, and more.

Legal Basis for Interstate Extradition

Within the United States, federal law governs extradition from one state to another. The Extradition Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV Section 2) requires that:

A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.

In addition to the United States Constitution, federal law in the United States Code (18 U.S.C § 3182) provides requirements for extradition.

The Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) also contains requirements and guidelines about extradition. The only states that have not adopted the UCEA are South Carolina and Missouri. Both states have state laws that still follow the federal statute.

Interstate Extradition Process

Whether a state has adopted the UCEA, the extradition process will be similar. The process begins when there's probable cause to issue an out-of-state warrant of arrest. This process usually occurs when a person fails to attend a court date or if there's reason to believe the person has fled.

When the out-of-state warrant is issued, the information is entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This is a nationwide database law enforcement uses to access warrant information in other states. If the asylum state arrests the fugitive, the arresting authorities will notify the first state that issued the warrant.

The original state may request the fugitive's return, also known as a requisition, but they only sometimes do so. If the crime is a misdemeanor or something other than a felony, there may be no request for a return. The governor of the original state may seek help from the attorney general. If the governor decides to request the fugitive's recovery, the governor will send a governor's warrant to the asylum state.

Upon the issuance of a governor's warrant, the fugitive has the option of waiving extradition or attempting to fight extradition through a writ of habeas corpus. The requesting executive must produce a copy of an indictment found or have an affidavit made before a magistrate.

 If both governors approve the request, they will hold an extradition hearing. A court in the state with the fugitive will decide to grant or deny extradition. If the court finds the offender is extraditable, it certifies the record to the secretary of state.

In deciding whether to extradite, states may not delve into the underlying charge behind an extradition request. Instead, the U.S. Constitution (Sixth Amendment) requires informing the accused about the nature and cause of the accusation. The Sixth Amendment requires that states notify the fugitive of:

  • The extradition request
  • The underlying criminal charge
  • The individual's right to seek legal counsel

The demanding state will get an offer to receive the fugitive upon granting the extradition request. The offender can still fight extradition by filing a writ of habeas corpus. If the court denies the habeas corpus petition, the original state will arrange to transport them back to the demanding state. If the court grants the habeas corpus petition, they will release the fugitive.

No bail is permitted if the fugitive is charged with an offense that is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Suppose the prisoner engages in forfeiture of bail, meaning that they do not appear or surrender according to the bond conditions. In that case, bail will be forfeited, and the individual will be arrested immediately.

Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act

The Interstate Agreement On Detainers Act (IADA) applies to transfers of sentenced prisoners for unrelated trials between two states. It also applies to transfers from the federal government to the states and vice versa. It does not apply to transfers of federal prisoners between many judicial districts for trial on federal charges.

The IADA allows prosecutors in one jurisdiction to receive the defendants imprisoned in other jurisdictions for trial before their sentence expires. A prisoner may request speedy disposition of the charges under Article Three of the IADA after the prosecutor puts a detainer on the prisoner.

Upon the prisoner's request for a speedy disposition of the charges, the prosecutor must bring the prisoner to trial within 180 days. If the prosecutor exceeds that time frame, the court will dismiss the charges. The detainer thus becomes invalid.


There aren't many defenses to extradition. As long as the process and procedure in the U.S. Constitution and federal law have been followed, the asylum state must surrender the fugitive to the demanding state. But, there are a few defenses that have been identified by the Supreme Court, such as:

  • Whether the extradition request documents are in order
  • Whether the demanding state has charged the person with a crime
  • Whether the person named in the extradition request is the person charged with the crime
  • Whether the petitioner is, in fact, a fugitive from the requesting state

If the fugitive's petition or writ for habeas corpus is unsuccessful, the arresting state must hold them for the demanding state. The demanding state then has 30 days to retrieve the fugitive. If they don't, the arresting state may release them.

Extradition Cases

Kentucky v. Dennison, a case dating back to the 19th century, held that the Extradition Clause's commands are mandatory. Under this clause, there was no discretion for an asylum state's executive officers. Kentucky v. Dennison was the law of the land for over 100 years until 1987.

In Puerto Rico v. Branstad, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that federal courts can enforce extraditions due to the Extradition Clause of Article Four of the Constitution. This decision overruled Kentucky v. Dennison.

More Questions About Extradition Between States? Get Answers From a Criminal Law Attorney

The legality of extradition can be confusing, but you can go through it with the help of an experienced lawyer. Contact a criminal defense attorney near you who can help protect your rights. Your lawyer will ensure the best possible defenses to extradition.

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