CRS Annotated Constitution

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Fugitive From Justice: Defined.—To be a fugitive from justice within the meaning of this clause, it is not necessary that the party charged should have left the State after an indictment found or for the purpose of avoiding a prosecution anticipated or begun. It is sufficient that the accused, having committed a crime within one State and having left the jurisdiction before being subjected to criminal process, is found within another State.227 The motive which induced the departure is immaterial.228 Even if he were brought involuntarily into the State where found by requisition from another State, he may be surrendered to a third State upon an extradition warrant.229 A person indicted a second time for the same offense is nonetheless a fugitive from justice by reason of the fact that after dismissal of the first indictment, on which he was originally indicted, he left the State with the knowledge of, or without objection by, state authorities.230 But a defendant cannot be extradited if he was only constructively present in the demanding State at the time of the commission of the crime charged.231 For the purpose of determining who is a fugitive from justice, the words “treason, felony or other crime” embrace every act forbidden and made punishable by a law of a State,232 including misdemeanors.233

Procedure for Removal.—Only after a person has been charged with a crime in the regular course of judicial proceedings is the governor of a State entitled to make demand for his return from another State.234 The person demanded has no constitutional right to be heard before the governor of the State in which he is found on the question whether he has been substantially charged with crime and is a fugitive from justice.235 The constitutionally required surrender is not to be interfered with by habeas corpus[p.880]upon speculations as to what ought to be the result of a trial.236 Nor is it proper thereby to inquire into the motives controlling the actions of the governors of the demanding and surrendering States.237 Matters of defense, such as the running of the statute of limitations,238 or the contention that continued confinement in the prison of the demanding State would amount to cruel and unjust punishment,239 cannot be heard on habeas corpus but should be tested in the courts of the demanding State, where all parties may be heard, where all pertinent testimony will be readily available, and where suitable relief, if any, may be fashioned. A defendant will, however, be discharged on habeas corpus if he shows by clear and satisfactory evidence that he was outside the demanding State at the time of the crime.240 If, however, the evidence is conflicting, habeas corpus is not a proper proceeding to try the question of alibi.241 The habeas court’s role is, therefore, very limited.242

Trial of Fugitives After Removal.—There is nothing in the Constitution or laws of the United States which exempts an offender, brought before the courts of a State for an offense against its laws, from trial and punishment, even though he was brought from another State by unlawful violence,243 or by abuse of legal process,244 and a fugitive lawfully extradited from another State may be tried for an offense other than that for which he was surrendered.245 The rule is different, however, with respect to fugitives surrendered by a foreign government, pursuant to treaty. In that case the offender may be tried only “for the offense with which he is charged in the proceedings for his extradition, until a reasonable time and opportunity have been given him, after his release or trial upon such charge, to return to the country from whose asylum he had been forcibly taken under those proceedings.”246


Clause 3. No person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.


This clause contemplated the existence of a positive unqualified right on the part of the owner of a slave which no state law could in any way regulate, control, or restrain. Consequently the owner of a slave had the same right to seize and repossess him in another State, as the local laws of his own State conferred upon him, and a state law which penalized such seizure was held unconstitutional.247 Congress had the power and the duty, which it exercised by the Act of February 12, 1793,248 to carry into effect the rights given by this section,249 and the States had no concurrent power to legislate on the subject.250 However, a state statute providing a penalty for harboring a fugitive slave was held not to conflict with this clause since it did not affect the right or remedy either of the master or the slave; by it the State simply prescribed a rule of conduct for its own citizens in the exercise of its police power.251


227 Roberts v. Reilly, 116 U.S. 80 (1885). See also Strassheim v. Daily, 221 U.S. 280 (1911); Appleyard v. Massachusetts, 203 U.S. 222 (1906); Ex parte Reggel, 114 U.S. 642, 650 (1885).
228 Drew v. Thaw, 235 U.S. 432, 439 (1914).
229 Innes v. Tobin, 240 U.S. 127 (1916).
230 Bassing v. Cady, 208 U.S. 386 (1908).
231 Hyatt v. People ex rel. Corkran, 188 U.S. 691 (1903).
232 Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. (65 U.S.) 66, 103 (1861).
233 Taylor v. Taintor, 16 Wall. (83 U.S.) 366, 375 (1873).
234 Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. (65 U.S.) 66, 104 (1861); Pierce v. Creecy, 210 U.S. 387 (1908). See also Matter of Strauss, 197 U.S. 324, 325 (1905); Marbles v. Creecy, 215 U.S. 63 (1909); Strassheim v. Daily, 221 U.S. 280 (1911).
235 Munsey v. Clough, 196 U.S. 364 (1905); Pettibone v. Nichols, 203 U.S. 192 (1906).
236 Drew v. Thaw, 235 U.S. 432 (1914).
237 Pettibone v. Nichols, 203 U.S. 192 (1906).
238 Biddinger v. Commissioner of Police, 245 U.S. 128 (1917). See also Rodman v. Pothier, 264 U.S. 399 (1924).
239 Sweeney v. Woodall, 344 U.S. 86 (1952).
240 Hyatt v. People ex rel. Corkran, 188 U.S. 691 (1903). See also South Carolina v. Bailey, 289 U.S. 412 (1933).
241 Munsey v. Clough, 196 U.S. 364, 375 (1905).
242 Michigan v. Doran, 439 U.S. 282, 289 (1978). In California v. Superior Court, 482 U.S. 400 (1987), the Court reiterated that extradition is a “summary procedure.”
243 Ker v. Illinois, 119 U.S. 436, 444 (1886); Mahon v. Justice, 127 U.S. 700, 707, 712, 714 (1888).
244 Cook v. Hart, 146 U.S. 183, 193 (1892); Pettibone v. Nichols, 203 U.S. 192, 215 (1906).
245 Lascelles v. Georgia, 148 U.S. 537, 543 (1893).
246 United States v. Rauscher, 119 U.S. 407, 430 (1886).
247 Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. (41 U.S.) 539, 612 (1842).
248 1 Stat. 302 (1793).
249 Jones v. Van Zandt, 5 How. (46 U.S.) 215, 229 (1847); Ableman v. Booth, 21 How. (62 U.S.) 506 (1859).
250 Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. (41 U.S.) 539, 625 (1842).
251 Moore v. Illinois, 14 How. (55 U.S.) 13, 17 (1853).
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