Handbook of Drug Control in the United States

By James A. Inciardi | Go to book overview

Appendix C
Extradition and Drug Trafficking

Mary Ann Forney

In February 1987, some twenty miles outside of Medellín, Colombia, a special police force captured Carlos Lehder Rivas, a key figure in a drug trafficking organization that was estimated at the time to be supplying over 80 percent of the world's cocaine. 1 Within hours, Lehder was on a plane to Florida, a consequence of the extradition treaty between the United States and Colombia. His arrest and subsequent extradition to the United States stemmed from a 1981 indictment charging him with conspiracy, importation and distribution of cocaine, operation of a continuing criminal enterprise, and tax evasion. 2 The extradition of this particular drug trafficking entrepreneur effectively demonstrated the efforts the U.S. and Colombian governments had made in their war against drugs. Within months, however, the legality of the treaty that brought about Lehder's extradition for trial in federal court was questioned, and by 26 June 1987 the Colombian Supreme Court had ruled the law ratifying the treaty invalid. 3

The Lehder episode demonstrated that while extradition can be a powerful and sweeping weapon in the war on drugs, it can also be a tentative and fragile one, subject to contingencies well beyond the control of U.S. courts, legislators, and law enforcement groups. Within this context, this appendix will briefly examine the nature of extradition and the U.S./Colombian extradition experience.


THE NATURE OF EXTRADITION

Extradition has been defined as "the surrender by one jurisdiction or nation (the requested state) to another (the requesting state) of an individual accused or convicted of an offense outside of its own territory (the requested person), and within the territorial jurisdiction of the other, which, being competent to try and punish him, demands the surrender." 4 The history of extradition involving jurisdictions within the United States dates back to the earliest days of the American republic. Under most circumstances, for example, every state has

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