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What happens when you are accused of a crime across state lines?

Imagine you live in Detroit but you have taken a few days off to visit Chicago. One afternoon your house sitter texts you that two Detroit police officers had been looking for you. They had a warrant for your arrest: You are sure this has something to do with a large sum of money that went missing at your company. The house sitter urges you to come home quickly to clear up the misunderstanding.

You are now a fugitive from justice. The way the police see it, you committed this crime and promptly left the state, perhaps for the purpose of avoiding arrest. The police also know that they cannot go to your hotel in Chicago and arrest you there. They must rely on officers from Chicago, Cook County or the state of Illinois to take you in -- and the way to do that is to request extradition.

In this scenario, Michigan is called the demanding state, and Illinois is the asylum state. The Constitution and federal law guarantee the right of one state to extradite a fugitive from another state. That is, within the U.S., extradition does not operate on treaties. Edward Snowden, for example, could not leave New York and move to California to escape prosecution. Snowden looked for a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.; he ended up in Russia, where the authorities have no obligation to hand him over to our law enforcement agencies.

Michigan may want you back, but you do not have to comply. It is possible to defend against extradition. A local attorney can help you fight extradition and can work with an attorney in the demanding state (Michigan) to investigate the criminal charges.

Perhaps, then, instead of packing your bags and heading back to Detroit, you should pick up the phone and call a criminal defense attorney in the Chicago area.

Source: Illinois Practice Series (2d ed.), Criminal Practice And Procedure: Chapter 34. Extradition And Detainers, Linda S. Pieczynski, November 2014, via WestlawNext

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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