Refidition of Fugitives from Justice
The terms extradition and rendition frequently are employed interchangeably by the media. The former properly describes the process, established by a treaty, for the return of a fugitive from justice by one nation to the nation from which the fugitive fled. Extradition treaties entered into by the United States with foreign nations limit extraditable crimes to those listed in a treaty and a returned fugitive cannot be tried for any other crime. A governor of a state in the United States has no authority to extradite a fugitive from justice to a foreign country since states are forbidden by the U.S. Constitution to enter into treaties with foreign governments. 1
The term interstate rendition properly is employed to describe the process, established by the U.S. Constitution and a congressional statute, for the return of a fugitive from justice by one state to the state from which the fugitive fled. The governor of each concerned state plays a key role in the rendition process. In contrast to international law, a returned fugitive can be tried for the offense with which he/she was charged in the rendition documents and any other offense he/she may have committed in the demanding state.
Rendition is essential in a confederation or a federation to prevent criminals and persons charged with crimes from fleeing to another state to seek sanctuary and immunity from punishment or prosecution. The process was employed during the colonial period, particularly among the colonies of the New England Confederation established in 1643. 2 Hence, it was not surprising that the drafters of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union decided to include Article IV which stipulates:
If any person guilty of, or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any state shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall upon the demand of the Governor or executive power, of the state from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the state having jurisdiction of his offense.
The drafters of the U.S. Constitution included several provisions in the document to promote interstate harmony. They recognized that the failure of a state to return a fugitive from justice to the requesting state could cause friction between the two