Articles Posted in Extradition

There is no doubt that extradition has been a practice area of criminal law for decades in NJ but I have definitely witnessed a rise in activity. In fact, the US Marshals service and state law enforcement undertook an initiative approximately six (6) months ago to roundup fugitives from justice. Our office was consulted and/or retained on several cases arising out of this effort and some individuals were to be extradited on warrants that originated as much as fifteen (15) years old. But what does this renaissance in the government’s interest to extradite really mean for the public and legal community?

My impression is that a lot of the renewed interest has to do with money. Almost every state and the Federal Government are strapped for funds so a nice target is fugitives. If someone has fled a jurisdiction before completing probation or parole, or before resolving a criminal charge, they are deemed criminal fugitives; the term of art is “fugitive from justice”. Not only First Degree and Second Degree Crimes carry the potential for someone being extradited – Third and Fourth Degree charges can also provide a basis to extradite. There certainly is no compelling reason to have any sympathy for these individuals in the eyes of the general public. And if a defendant is going to have any chance of resolving his underlying criminal charges he or she is going to have to make good for all kinds of financial liabilities to the government including extradition costs and expenses, bail, contempt orders, probation and parole fees, etc. This all means not only revenue to the states and/or federal government but also good public relations.

In tough times like these, government is exploring all avenues to generate revenue. Fugitives are much like lawyers – a group to which the general public is not sympathetic. Perhaps this analogy is an extreme but I would have to admit that it really is not far off. Bring on the orders and warrants for extradition for our brethren.

The subject of extradition has seen recent attention in the last several weeks. A major portion of this publicity has come as a result of the Roman Polanski case. Mr. Polanski is in the process of being extradited to the United States. In another case, a UK hacker who apparently broke into United States military computers, has lost his fight and the extraditing process shall now be effectuated.

We receive calls and are consulted, over and over again, by individuals interested in Fighting Extradition to New Jersey. The honest truth is that avoiding extradition is extremely rare and objections often only serve to delay the inevitable. An Extradition Waiver can avoid this delay but that was not something which the UK Hacker was willing to adopt. The same appears to be the case with Mr. Polanski who is preparing to fight transport back to authorities in the United States. I am not optimistic that his fight shall have any success given my experience in NJ Extradition.

There are some days where everything comes together perfectly and that was the situation today.  In this regard, we were retained to represent a women who was a fugitive from New Jersey for almost 20 years for First Degree Cocaine Distribution.  Although she never resorted to serious efforts to disguise her identity and even used her own social security number, it took authorities until June 2009 to arrest her.  She was eventually apprehended by United States Marshals in the Southeast and was thereafter extradited to NJ to face her charges. Our client was exposed to 10-20 years of incarceration on the original charges and additional time for bail jumping.

The facts surround our client’s case literally read like a made for movie storyline. After fleeing NJ, she built a solid, law abiding life, having married, raised three children, graduated with a four year college degree in accounting, and having gained significant career success. She had no prior nor subsequent history of criminal activity.

Upon becoming involved in this case, we immediately made sure that a waiver of extradition was executed such that no unnecessary delay in transport to NJ was incurred. The only thing needed to be accomplished once the waiver was executed was to coordinate transport to New Jersey and insure that this was undertaken immediately. We were able to achieve this goal and the client made her way back to the state within a number of days.  A problem encountered in extradition situations can be, however, adequate notice concerning an extradited suspect’s initial appearance in New Jersey. An individual is almost immediately brought before a Judge and communication as to arrival and the initial hearing can be challenging. In this case, we were able to get to Warren County when our client arrived at Court and, rather than simply discuss bail, we engaged the Prosecutor in plea negotiations. The weaknesses in the case were obvious in view of the age of the case (e.g. availability of police officers, changes in vehicle search laws, etc.).  On top of these issues, the Prosecutor was somewhat sympathetic  to our client’s situation.

I have to admit that Manuel Noriega was little more than a name from the past in my mind until I read some recent news. He apparently completed an incarceration in Federal Prison in 2007 but has continued to be held while contesting an extradition warrant and/or demand from France. These efforts to block extradition to France have reached an end, however, as a result of the recent United States Supreme Court decision in his case. He is to be surrendered to French authorities in the near future.

International extradition can be very complex as illustrated by its taking approximately three (3) years to get a final order to extradite Mr. Noriega to France. Whether or not this variety of extradition was permissible hinged on the existence of an extradition treaty between the US and France, something which plainly exists. If the demand to extradite involved a country like Saudi Arabia or even Serbia, extradition would not be authorized as there is no treaty to allow for extradition to or from the United States.

Where a valid treaty exists, an Extradition Lawyer is limited to collaterally attacking the demand for the “fugitive”. This is how Frank Rubino crafted his objection on behalf of Mr. Noriega. His primary argument was apparently that the prisoners of war convention mandated a return of Mr. Noriega to his home country upon conclusion of his sentence. The Supreme Court disagreed.

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