What are my options if I’m arrested abroad and facing extradition to the U.S.?

While being accused of a criminal offense is already a terrifying and confusing experience, your situation quickly becomes more difficult and complicated if you have been arrested abroad and are now trying to determine whether to fight an international extradition to the United States.

Will I be extradited?

If an individual has been charged by the United States with a criminal offense and is subsequently arrested abroad in a country that has an extradition treaty with the U.S., there is a strong possibility that this person will be extradited. Even countries that don’t have extradition treaties with the U.S. but are on good terms politically, may sometimes extradite people sought by the American authorities.

However, just because an extradition treaty exists does not guarantee that an extradition will occur. In the end, the decision to extradite is and remains a political one, and depends on the political good will between the extraditing country and the U.S. It should also be noted that some countries, like Germany for example, will not extradite their own citizens to the U.S. And most countries require the crime for which the individual is sought also to be a violation of the law in the extraditing country.

Should I fight or waive extradition?

Assuming that all the extradition paperwork is in order and extradition appears likely, there may still be reasons to fight extradition. For example, the accused may want to delay extradition for a variety of personal reasons. Relatives may be living in the country in the extraditing country, thereby making visits easier. Also, the conditions of confinement may be better in the country in which the arrest occurred than in the United States. Notably, in most instances, the time spent in extradition detention will be credited to any future sentence in the United States.

On the other hand, there are also often very good reasons to give up the extradition fight early and to allow the individual to be sent to the US as quickly as possible. By waiving extradition, the person can begin fighting the charges, or possibly reach a more favorable deal. Fighting extradition delays this process and can make it more difficult for the parties to work together to reach a solution. In some instances, purposeful delay of extradition can be seen by American authorities as efforts to avoid accepting responsibility and can have a negative impact at sentencing. At times, cooperation with the U.S. government is the best possible option for a person facing serious charges in the U.S. If cooperation is an option and desired, extradition must be waived immediately because the American authorities will generally not work with a person who remains abroad fighting his charges.

Ultimately, deciding whether to fight extradition or waive depends on the specific circumstances of the case and the country involved. It is important to have a good extradition attorney in the arresting country on your side.

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