Discharge of Prisoner


A prisoner in an extradition case will be discharged under certain circumstances.  Usually, in interstate extradition cases, notice of a fugitive’s arrest should be conveyed to the concerned demanding state or an agent authorized to take the fugitive to the demanding state.  If a proceeding under a writ of habeas corpus is pending, then a prisoner can be extradited only upon the finality of that proceeding.

In international extradition cases, when a person is committed to prison in order to hand him/her over to a foreign country, a certificate to that effect is to be given to the secretary of state.  An authorized agent of a foreign country has to take him/her over within two months[i].  If a delay is caused due to the inaction of a demanding state, a prisoner may be released.  But if the delay is attributable to a pending habeas corpus proceeding, then that period will not be counted towards the two month period in the statute.  A prisoner released because no agent from a demanding state received him/her within a specified time can be again extradited only on a new demand from the demanding state.  A prisoner may voluntarily return to the state from where s/he fled justice[ii].

A prisoner may be discharged if an agent of a demanding state does not take over him/her within a reasonable time.  A prisoner detained after the expiry of more than thirty days after his/her petition for habeas corpus has became final is entitled to discharge.  For example, in Hill v. Roberts[iii], it was held that a prisoner was entitled to discharge where a demanding state failed to receive him/her for two and a half years.

A court will not discharge a defendant arrested under a governor’s warrant where there is merely contradictory evidence on the subject of presence in or absence from a state.  A question of alibi will not be heard in a habeas corpus proceeding[iv].  A court will discharge an accused who shows that s/he was not within a demanding state when the alleged crime was committed[v].

A fugitive is not entitled to relief in the form of discharge where his/her challenge to extradition is the reason for additional jail time[vi].  Bail may be granted in international extradition cases only when special circumstances exist[vii].

A fugitive is transferred on extradition and an official is authorized to transport him/her from an asylum state to a demanding state.  An authorized agent may use an asylum state’s detention facilities to aid in the transportation of the fugitive.  If an authorized agent’s deputy accompanies an accused, it will not make an extradition invalid.  An agent who transports a fugitive has to comply with the  individual’s rights afforded to him by the constitution.

Federal statutes prevail over state constitutions and statutes with regard to extradition of fugitives and a state court has to determine whether the conditions prescribed by the federal constitution and statutes have been followed in habeas corpus proceedings.  A court may release a prisoner only on bail if the habeas corpus proceedings are not conducted in conformity with federal statutes[viii].

A person has to be lawfully deprived of his liberty and extradited from an asylum state to another state to be tried for an offense committed there.  An alleged fugitive has a right to be imprisoned with regard to the safeguards provided by the constitution and statutes of the U.S.[ix].

[i] 18 U.S.C.S. § 3188.

[ii] U.E.R.A. § 5-101(c).

[iii] 359 So. 2d 911, 1978 Fla. App. LEXIS 15851.

[iv] Ex parte Massee, 95 S.C. 315 (S.C. 1913).

[v] State of South Carolina v. Bailey, 289 U.S. 412, 53 S. Ct. 667, 77 L. Ed. 1292 (1933).

[vi] Bowersox v. State, 790 S.W.2d 363 (Tex. App. Houston 14th Dist. 1990).

[vii] Cabrera Duran v. United States, 36 F. Supp. 2d 622 (S.D.N.Y. 1999).

[viii] Ex parte Massee, 95 S.C. 315 (S.C. 1913).

[ix] McBride v. Soos, 594 F.2d 610, 1979 U.S. App. LEXIS 16736.