Extradition Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Extradition, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Extradition?

n. Surrendering a person to another state or country by one state or country. The state requesting the right to prosecute usually makes the claim to the governor of the state where the accused is present. A Governor may refuse to extradite the person if he/she has proven that the prosecution is not warranted despite the constitutional mandate that “on demand of the Executive authority of the State from which \[a fugitive from justice\] fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the crime.” A defendant may waive extradition by allowing himself/herself to be returned to the state where the charges are pending. When international extradition is involved, it is often more difficult and is usually governed by treaty. Most countries will extradite those charged with serious crimes although some will not and refuse for certain crimes.

History and Meaning of Extradition

Extradition is an ancient practice, dating back to at least the Roman Empire, where individuals accused of crimes in one territory were surrendered to another. The modern concept of extradition as we know it today emerged in the nineteenth century as sovereign states began to establish formal rules and procedures for surrendering accused or convicted individuals to one another.

Extradition is typically governed by treaties between countries that establish the legal framework for the surrender of fugitive offenders. The United States has extradition treaties with many countries around the world, setting out the conditions under which one country will surrender a fugitive to another. In the absence of a treaty, extradition may be governed by the domestic law of the country being requested to surrender the individual.

Examples of Extradition

  1. In 2019, the United States requested the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou from Canada to face charges related to the company's alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran.

  2. In 2016, the United States extradited notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to face charges related to drug trafficking and organized crime.

  3. In 2010, the United Kingdom extradited British terror suspect Haroon Aswat to the United States to face charges of conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaida.

Legal Terms Similar to Extradition

  1. Mutual Legal Assistance - Mutual Legal Assistance treaties provide for the exchange of evidence and information between countries for use in criminal investigations and proceedings.

  2. Deportation - Deportation involves the removal of an individual from a country for a violation of immigration laws, rather than for prosecution for a criminal offense.

  3. Habeas Corpus - Habeas Corpus is a legal action that allows an individual to challenge their detention or imprisonment in court, to ensure that they are not being held unlawfully.