Extradition, or the surrender of an alleged criminal by one state or country to another with jurisdiction over the crime charged, exists both in international treaties and within U.S. law. While most might think of extradition strictly as an international practice, extradition is also practiced within the borders of our country. In fact, the United States Constitution provides a basis for state-to-state extraditions. Article IV, Section 2, provides, “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 […].” Codified later by Congress, this law has existed almost unchanged since the ratification of the Constitution. The purpose of the clause remains to allow for states to bring defendants to trial as quickly as possible, to prevent any state from becoming a sanctuary for defendants, and also to provide for harmonious relations between the states. With these purposes in mind, the courts have consistently held up the statute, making extradition within the country an imminent reality for almost all defendants in all situations.

Extradition practices internationally, however, take on a much different and far more complicated form. Extradition between the United States and other counties only occurs when an extradition treaty has been signed between the two entities. In fact, US law reinforces this idea providing that extradition between the United States and another country will occur if, and only if, there is a treaty concerning extradition. The United States has extradition treaties with over 100 countries. Further, extradition also works in the opposite way. The United States can surrender a person within the borders to be brought to another country for criminal proceedings. While many countries refuse to extradite their own citizens no matter the crime charged, the United States refuses to take that approach. Often times, even in instances where the country involved would not extradite one of their own citizens, the United States will still send a citizen to face prosecution.

In addition, many extradition treaties contain parts that make extradition difficult, if not impossible in many cases. For example, the language of an extradition treaty must include the offense for which the return of the individual is sought. If the extradition treaty doesn’t contain that particular offense, extradition generally will not be carried out. In addition, many countries refuse to extradite individuals if the offense the defendant is being charged with is punishable by death, because of the human rights issues presented For example, in the United State’s extradition treaty with the United Kingdom, revised and signed n 2007, provides that when the offense charged is punishable by death under the law of the requesting state, the country can refuse extradition unless the requesting state can guarantee that the death penalty will not be imposed. Many extradition treaties contain even more complicated language and provisions, meaning each extradition case is unique to the country with which the treaty is signed.


EXTRADITION, Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009), extradition.

USCS Const. Art. IV, § 2, Cl 2.

18 USCS § 3182.

96 L. Ed. 2d 750.

18 USCS § 3181.

Sean D. Murphy, Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to International Law: New U.S./EU and U.S./U.K. Extradition Treaties, 98 A.J.I.L. 848.

2-5F United States Supreme Court Cases and Comments P 5F.03.

John Dugard & Christine Van den Wyngaert, RECONCILING EXTRADITION WITH HUMAN RIGHTS, 92 A.J.I.L. 187.

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