Extradition is the legal process of removing an individual who is charged with a crime in one state from another. In Arizona, the law governing extradition is codified in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3841 through 13-3870.02.
When you miss a court date or you are charged with a crime, an arrest warrant is issued. When a warrant is issued, you must surrender yourself to that court. In other words, you must turn yourself into authorities or face arrest.
The prosecution will ask for the warrant to be entered into the Arizona Crime Information Center (ACIC) or the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) systems. An NCIC warrant alerts authorities nationwide while an ACIC is limited to the State of Arizona. If you are stopped or arrested on an NCIC warrant, you can be held on that warrant anywhere in the United States, while on an ACIC warrant you could be held anywhere in the state.
If you are pulled over for a traffic violation or otherwise have an encounter with law enforcement and they run your information, it will likely show that you have an outstanding arrest warrant in Arizona or whatever jurisdiction issued the warrant.
The first thing that law enforcement will do is determine if it is a state (ACIC) warrant or a national (NCIC) warrant. Depending on where you are and which type of warrant has been issued, if law enforcement determines that they have cause to detain you on that warrant, you will be taken into custody.
If you are arrested, the warrant may allow you to post a bond and get released from custody. However, this does not make the criminal case go away. You must then return to the jurisdiction that issued the warrant to deal with the charges against you. Once you have returned to the state that issued the warrant and turned yourself in, the bond may be exonerated, or it may carry over and stay in place until the criminal charges have been resolved.
If the warrant does not permit a bond, you will be held pending your extradition hearing. Then you must make the decision to either waive your right to fight extradition or fight extradition at an extradition hearing. You should be aware that the burden of proof on the prosecution is exceedingly small, and therefore most defendants end up waiving their right to fight extradition.
In Arizona, if you change your plea from not guilty to guilty and you are placed on probation, one of the terms of your probation is that you waive your right to fight extradition. This means if a warrant is issued for you in another jurisdiction, you can be extradited without an extradition hearing. A member of law enforcement from the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued will come to Arizona to escort you back to jurisdiction within a “reasonable” amount of time.
If no bond is available, or you are unable to post the bond, on the warrant, you can waive your right to extradition. If you decide to waive your right to extradition in Arizona, you will be taken before a judge who will explain your right to fight extradition to make sure that you understand it. Then the judge will confirm that it is your desire to waive your right to an extradition hearing. To make it official, you will need to sign a formal waiver of your right to have an extradition hearing.
After waiving your right to extradition in Arizona, the court will notify the state or jurisdiction of the waiver. The state where the warrant was issued then has a “reasonable” amount of time to facilitate your return to that state.
It is your right to fight extradition at a formal extradition hearing. Extradition is a civil proceeding, so you do not have the right to be represented by an attorney as you would in a criminal matter. This means if you want legal assistance, you must hire an experienced criminal attorney if you want to be represented. The extradition hearing is not a formal trial. There is no right to a jury, a judge will decide whether to honor the extradition request.
As I said earlier, the burden of proof on the jurisdiction that issued the warrant is low. The standard of proof is not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” or even “the preponderance of the evidence”. Your guilt or innocence is not part of the hearing. That is for the court that issued the warrant to decide. They need only show that you are the person named in the warrant and the warrant must support a reasonable belief that you are the one who committed the crime, that is it. Because of this low standard, few extradition fights are ultimately successful.
If you waive extradition or the court decides that you should be extradited, the jurisdiction that issued the warrant has a “reasonable” amount of time to come and get you. The law does not specifically define what a “reasonable” amount of time is, but if the extraditing jurisdiction does not retrieve you for any reason, you may be released from custody.
If you are released from custody because the extraditing jurisdiction did not move fast enough, that does not mean your criminal charges go away. The warrant is still valid, and you can be arrested again on the same warrant. You might have to go through this process repeatedly because the warrant and the charges against you will not go away until you deal with them in the warrant issuing jurisdiction.
Let us say for example, you have a warrant for your arrest in California for a minor charge, you get arrested in Arizona and held pending extradition. You decide to waive extradition, but you sit in jail for a couple of weeks until California decides it is not worth its time to come and get you. At some point, you will be released. A week later you get stopped in Arizona for a broken taillight, you may find yourself on another unpaid vacation behind bars just to start the cycle over again.
Unless you can prove that you are not the person named in the warrant, fighting extradition may be an unnecessary waste of time and resources that you may need to fight the criminal charges against you. That is why I typically recommend waiving your right to an extradition hearing. Waiving your right to an extradition hearing in Arizona will, in most cases, speed things along to resolution. An important thing to note is that once you have waived extradition in Arizona, it is a done deal. You cannot un-waive your extradition rights after you have waived them.
However, in circumstances where I believe that we will be able to get evidence that will help your criminal case, I will recommend not waiving your right to an extradition hearing. For example, you have a warrant against you in California where you are facing serious criminal charges. You have hired or plan to hire an attorney in California to fight the criminal charges. I may recommend fighting extradition to force the California investigators to come to Arizona and present their evidence against you before the criminal proceedings have even started in California. This may give your California defense team an edge in your case there.
Another thing you must consider when deciding whether to fight extradition is, even if you are successful and win at the hearing, it only gets you out of custody in Arizona. It does not eliminate the warrant or resolve the criminal charges against you.
Obviously, if you are not the person named in the warrant, an extradition attorney may be able to help you get it straightened out. If you are the person named in the warrant, an extradition attorney may be able to help you by arranging a bond so that you can get released, or by contacting the jurisdiction that issued the warrant to help you resolve the matter without being extradited or make arrangements so that when you return to the issuing state, your matter can be resolved more quickly. An extradition attorney may also be able to acquire evidence at an extradition hearing to support your case for the criminal defense attorney in the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued.
In the right circumstances, an extradition attorney in Arizona may give you a leg up when fighting the criminal charges against you. If you have a warrant against you in another state or you have been arrested and are currently facing extradition, give the Snader Law Group a call or chat with us online now. Howard Snader is a Board-Certified Criminal Law Specialist in Arizona. He is always happy to speak to you about extradition and criminal matters in Arizona. There is no charge for a consultation, and it may give you the confidence and peace of mind to take extradition head-on.