Extradition involves two countries cooperating to transfer an individual from one country to another to stand trial for a crime
Hollywood director Roman Polanski recently made headlines again when the Supreme Court of Poland rejected the Polish government’s request to extradite Polanski to the United States.
The extradition battle has been ongoing since 1978, when Polanski left the U.S. the day before he was due to be sentenced in a statutory rape case stemming from an incident in 1977. Polanski was set to plead guilty to one count of statutory rape in connection with allegedly having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski moved to France, where he has spent the past four decades despite repeated attempts by American authorities to bring him back to the United States to stand trial. Polanski holds dual citizenship in Poland and France, however, France does not allow any country to extradite its citizens.
According to one report, legal experts believe the renewed push within Poland to extradite Polanski comes from a change in government leadership. In recent years, political and legal experts say that Polish politics have become more conservative, and the majority law-and-order party that currently has control in Poland would like to pursue justice against Polanski.
Authorities in Switzerland also refused to extradite Polanski to the U.S. in 2010. Polanski’s lawyer in Poland has argued that Polanski didn’t “flee” the United States, as he was never officially prohibited from leaving. Although the status of Polanski’s case in the U.S. and elsewhere remains uncertain, experts believe the Polish Supreme Court’s ruling has finally ended the case once and for all—at least in Poland.
What Is Extradition?
The issue of extradition has resurfaced in recent years in connection with the Edward Snowden case. Snowden, a government contractor accused of stealing classified government information and handing it over to journalists, fled to Russia to escape prosecution in the U.S.
Extradition is used when a person living outside the United States is forcibly sent back to the U.S. by the government of the foreign country in which they’re residing. In most cases, extradition is in place through bilateral treaties between the U.S. and foreign countries. Currently, the U.S. maintains 107 extradition treaties with other nations.
Texas federal criminal defense lawyer Mick Mickelsen explains, “Extradition is distinguishable from deportation in that deporting an individual occurs when the person has failed to meet the legal requirements for residence in a particular country. Extradition involves two countries cooperating to transfer an individual from one country to another to stand trial for a crime.”
To be extradited, a person must first be charged with a crime. In other words, you can’t be extradited if the U.S. government simply suspects you have committed a crime.
Extradition treaties often specifically define what crimes are considered extraditable offenses. In some treaties, espionage or offenses committed against a government are not included in the extraditable crimes. Furthermore, some countries will extradite a fugitive—meaning a citizen of another country who has fled there to escape prosecution—but they will not allow their own citizens to be extradited.
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SOURCE: Broden & Mickelsen