What Happens if I Fight Extradition Back to California?

If you have been charged with a serious felony like homicide in California, but have moved to another state, the prosecutor and judge in your case may approve extradition back to California to face charges. Fighting extradition may or may not have benefits depending on how you look at things.

Should your loved abscond justice, and you are wanting to help them make the right decision, we will discuss both the pitfalls and positives in waiving or fighting extradition to California.

Determining Whether Crimes are Extraditable

California, like 47 other states, follows the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) which states that any person wanted on charges can be held in any U.S. locality until the receiving state (California) decides to expound time and resources to pick the wanted person up. Only Missouri and South Carolina have not adopted the UCEA but may have their own rules on extradition.

In deciding whether fugitives from justice should be extradited, California will consider:

  • Distance from California in relation to seriousness of offense;
  • Costs involved including paying personnel, fuel, lodging and food;

Note that California will generally pick up fugitives in any state for murder or similarly high offenses.

Waiving or Fighting Extradition

By signing a waiver of extradition, fugitives forgo their right to fight being captured in another state. From there, California has 30 days to arrange transport back to the county that charged the fugitive. Each day spent in custody after waiving extradition gets credited toward the offence which the fugitive will face.

Should a fugitive fight extradition, a court date will be established to hear arguments why the defendant should not be returned to California. If the crime is a lower felony or misdemeanor, a bond may be issued, which allows the fugitive to go free until their hearing.

If the court determines just cause exists to return the fugitive back to California, a Governor’s Warrant will be signed and the person being returned will be transported within 90 days. Note that whether it takes 10 or 80 days, none of that time goes toward the underlying offence which the fugitive will face back home.

Should I Fight, or Just Come Back?

There are no “cheat sheets” used by county prosecutors or judges to determine whether they’ll request your return back to California, but there are several factors of which you should be mindful:

  • Misdemeanor crimes are generally not worth the resources required to extradite if the defendant is over 500 miles away;
  • Low-level “wobbler” felonies and those deemed non-violent may, too, not be worth the county’s time and money unless the prosecutor really, really wants you;
  • The longer you run, the harsher you may be treated upon your return;
  • Extradition from Arizona to California, because it is a bordering state, may be imminent regardless what level of crime you face;
  • County jail overcrowding, availability of guards or police assets, amount of money required to bring you back home and the likelihood you will waive extradition are other factors used to determine whether you will be returned.

Due to California extradition time limits mandated by UCEA, decisions are often made quickly.

Yes, an Attorney can Represent You From Afar

If you are living in another state, and the prosecutor decided to charge you with some crime committed months or years ago, extradition back to California could happen if your whereabouts are known. You will then need to decide whether you will accept the extradition request, or fight it in the county in which you have been detained.

Each case for which extradition is possible is based on its own merits. No two decisions are ever the same. With criminal defense working for you back in California, you may receive a bond. You can then return to California yourself, allow your attorney to resolve the case in absentia, or go with what they suggest. Fighting or waiving extradition may have positives; your attorney will know.

Either way, take your potential extradition seriously.