Extradition Hearings in Federal Court

An extradition proceeding is not a trial and the issues to be determined by the court are limited. Instead, the only relevant determination is whether:

“…a prima facie case of guilt exists that is sufficient to make it proper to hold the extraditee for trial.  . . .

[A] judge should consider that ‘extradition proceedings are not to be converted into a dress rehearsal for a trial’ and ‘whether the resolution of the contested issue would be appreciably advanced by the requested discovery.’”

Emami v. U.S. Dist. Court for N. Dist. of California, 834 F.2d 1444, 1452 (9th Cir. 1987)(citations omitted).

For extradition hearings in federal court, only six findings are required in order to certify a fugitive for extradition:

  1. the judicial officer has jurisdiction to conduct an extradition proceeding;
  2. the Court has jurisdiction over the fugitive;
  3. the person before the Court is the fugitive named in the request for extradition;
  4. there is an extradition treaty in full force and effect;
  5. the crimes for which surrender is requested are covered by that treaty; and
  6. there is competent legal evidence to support the finding of probable cause as to each charge for which extradition is sought.

In re Extradition of Figueroa, No. 12–M–269, 2013 WL 3243096, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 26, 2013).

Attorneys for Extradition in Federal Court in the Tampa Division

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients in extradition hearing in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.

Our office is located just a block from the courthouse for the Tampa Division in downtown Tampa. The Tampa Division serves the surrounding areas including Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota Counties.

This article explains the issues that arise during an extradition hearing in federal court. At Sammis Law Firm, we also represent clients being held for extradition or while awaiting extradition in state court.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.

Probable Cause Determinations in Extradition Hearings

With respect to whether there is competent legal evidence to support the finding of probable cause as to each charge for which extradition is sought, “[t]he function of the committing magistrate is to determine whether there is competent evidence to justify holding the accused to await trial, and not to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to justify a conviction.” Collins v. Loisel, 259 U.S. 309, 316 (1922).

The judicial officer who conducts an extradition hearing considers evidence bearing only on whether there is probable cause to believe that the fugitive may be found guilty of the offense for which extradition has been requested. For example, in In re Extradition of Drayer, 190 F.3d 410, 415 (6th Cir. 1999), the court explained that: “An extradition proceeding is not a forum in which to establish the guilt or innocence of the accused; rather, the sole inquiry is into probable cause.”

The probable cause inquiry presents a low threshold that is not subject to adversarial procedures and does not require the presentation or consideration of exculpatory evidence. As the Supreme Court recently explained:

This Court has repeatedly declined to require the use of adversarial procedures to make probable cause determinations. Probable cause, we have often told litigants, is not a high bar: It requires only the kind of fair probability on which reasonable and prudent people, not legal technicians, act. . . .

That is why a grand jury’s finding of probable cause to think that a person committed a crime can be made reliably without an adversary hearing; it is and has always been thought sufficient to hear only the prosecutor’s side. So, for example, we have held the confrontation and cross- examination of witnesses unnecessary in a grand jury proceeding.

Similarly, we have declined to require the presentation of exculpatory evidence, and we have allowed the introduction of hearsay alone. . . .

No doubt [defendants] could seek to poke holes in the evidence the Government offered the grand jury to support those allegations. No doubt, too, the [defendants] could present evidence of their own, which might cast the Government’s in a different light. . . .

Our criminal justice system of course relies on such contestation at trial when the question becomes whether a defendant is guilty beyond peradventure. . . . [But t]he probable cause decision, by its nature, is hard to undermine. . . .

Kaley v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1090, 1103 (2014) (internal quotation marks, brackets, and citations omitted; emphasis added).

In United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36, 51-52 (1992), the court found:

“It is axiomatic that the grand jury sits not to determine guilt or innocence, but to assess whether there is adequate basis for bringing a criminal charge. That has always been so; and to make the assessment it has always been thought sufficient to hear only the prosecutor’s side. . . .

Imposing upon the prosecutor a legal obligation to present exculpatory evidence in his possession would be incompatible with this system.”

In United States v. Angel, 355 F.3d 462, 475 (6th Cir. 2004), the court found that: “The government, however, has no judicially enforceable duty to provide a grand jury with exculpatory evidence.”

The evidence is sufficient and probable cause is established if a person of ordinary prudence and caution can conscientiously entertain a reasonable belief in the probable guilt of the accused. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 111 (1975).

In the extradition context, a judge’s finding of probable cause will be sustained by a reviewing habeas court if there was any evidence warranting the finding that there was a reasonable ground to believe the accused guilty. Fernandez v. Phillips, 268 U.S. 311, 312 (1925).

This article was last updated on Friday, July 17, 2020.