A Primer on Extradition: Tracking Fugitives and Managing Criminal Proceedings

​Q: What is extradition?
A: Extradition is an intricate process by which a person who is being held as a result of criminal proceedings in one state is surrendered to another state in connection with separate criminal proceedings. For example, extradition is used if a person is alleged to have committed a crime in Ohio and flees Ohio before prosecution concludes or the person serves a sentence. An accused person who flees prosecution or sentencing is called a fugitive. If the fugitive is taken into custody in a separate state, Ohio can ask to have the person returned to Ohio so that criminal proceedings can be completed. Generally, however, Ohio must agree to return the accused to the other state when the proceedings in Ohio are concluded. Similarly, the governor of Ohio may surrender to the executive authority of another state any person arrested in Ohio who is subject to pending criminal charges elsewhere. 

Q: What happens when a fugitive is arrested?
A: Following arrest, the fugitive can request a hearing to contest the extradition or the fugitive can waive the right to this hearing. If the fugitive waives the right to a hearing, he or she will be made available immediately for return to the requesting state. 
Q: Who regulates extradition?
A: Extradition is regulated by the executive authority of a state. Within Ohio, the governor regulates extradition. After a fugitive is arrested in a separate state, the governor of Ohio may demand extradition. If such a demand is made, the governor will issue a warrant for the fugitive’s arrest. The warrant must contain a factual summary explaining the basis for the extradition.

Q: How long does the extradition process take?
A: A person who is arrested in Ohio and held as a fugitive may be confined up to 30 days to allow the arrest to be made under the authority of a governor’s warrant. The fugitive may be confined for another 60 days, and the prosecution need not request that extension. In essence, a trial court is authorized to hold a fugitive in confinement for a total of 90 days while waiting for a governor’s warrant. According to Ohio law (O.R.C. §2963.14), a court may release a fugitive on bail while waiting for a governor’s warrant for extradition to be served.

Once a governor’s warrant has been served, a new phase of extradition proceedings begins. At this stage, the fugitive may apply for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the legality of his or her arrest. At this point in the proceedings, the fugitive is no longer absolutely entitled to a release on bond. If there is a hearing regarding the writ, the court gives notice of the hearing to the prosecutor of the county in which the original arrest was made and to the appropriate parties in the state requesting extradition. It is important to note that the scope of the habeas corpus hearing only focuses on the legality of the arrest and does not address the merits of the pending charges. If there is no challenge to the legality of the arrest and the other state has received the governor’s warrant, then the fugitive will be transported to the state requesting extradition. 

Q: What if a person is serving a sentence in one state and still has pending charges in a separate state?
A: This scenario is governed by the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, which is binding on 48 states, including Ohio, as well as the District of Columbia and the federal government. The Agreement applies to the transfer of a sentenced prisoner between two states or between the federal government and a state to face untried charges. Generally, the Agreement sets forth a timeframe within which the prisoner must be prosecuted in the receiving state or jurisdiction.

Specifically, once the prisoner is delivered to the receiving state, the prisoner must be brought to trial within 180 days. Otherwise, the receiving state or jurisdiction must dismiss the pending prosecution, unless the court having jurisdiction over the prisoner grants a “necessary or reasonable continuance” to allow more time for trial preparation. The overriding purpose of the Agreement is to promote prompt and orderly disposition of pending prosecutions.

The difference between extradition and detainer proceedings is that “detainer” deals with a prisoner who has already been sentenced for a crime in one state, but has unresolved criminal charges originating from another state. Extradition is different in that it addresses scenarios involving criminal proceedings that are pending at the same time in two different states.


This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by attorney Kristina W. Supler of the Cleveland firm of McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA. ​​

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.



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