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FAQs: Accused of a crime in another country
In this section, we provide answers to questions most commonly asked by individuals who are outside the country where they are being accused of crimes. The information in this section is also relevant for individuals who are unsure whether or not they are being accused of a crime in a different country, and for those who want to find out more about extraditions.
N.B.: The information contained here is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice, nor does it constitute legal advice. Whilst we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, Fair Trials makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or applicability to individual cases of the information contained here. Any reliance you place on such materials is strictly at your own risk. Fair Trials disclaims any liability to the fullest extent permissible by law for any loss or damage of any kind arising from the use of the information provided.
I want to find out if I am being accused of a crime. How do I do this?
The easiest and the safest way to do this is by engaging a local criminal lawyer in the country where you think you might be facing accusations. Your lawyer might be able to help you obtain this information, and to advise you on your best options.
I know that I am being accused of a crime in another country. What should I do?
It is important that you stay in touch with your lawyer in the country where you are being accused (or if you do not have one, to engage one), so that they can update you on any important developments in your case, and to advise you on your best options. It is also important that your lawyer is aware of your concerns about your case, and what you have to say in response to the accusations against you.
I was previously arrested in another country, but I have since returned home. Will I face problems if I go back there?
Once again, this is something that has to be discussed with your local criminal lawyer in the country where you were initially arrested. If you do not have one already, you should try to find one. Firstly, you need to find out whether or not you are being accused of any crimes, and if so, what stage your legal proceedings have reached. Secondly, your lawyer should be able to advise you what is likely to happen if you decide to return to the country. There might, for example, be a risk that you will be identified as a fugitive, and arrested.
What will happen if I ignore the criminal proceedings against me in another country?
This will depend on a number of different factors, so this is something that you should discuss with your local lawyer in the country where you are being accused of the crime. The risks of ignoring your criminal proceedings could include the following:
- Your trial could go ahead in your absence, and you could be deprived or your opportunity to participate in your trial, and influence the outcome of your case.
- You could be convicted in your absence. Although in many countries, it is possible to request a re-trial, this is not always granted automatically, and in some countries, this option might not be available.
- There is a risk that the country where you are being accused will seek your extradition. This could mean that you are arrested in the country where you are, and sent back, so that you can either be tried, or if you have already been convicted, to serve your sentence. There is further information about extraditions at below under ‘What is extradition?’.
I have recently been told that I need to attend a court hearing in another country. What should I do?
You should discuss this with your local lawyer in the country where the court hearing is taking place. Here are some suggestions of the questions you might wish to ask your lawyer:
- What is this hearing about? Do I need to attend?
- What will happen if I do not attend? If this hearing is part of a trial, what is the likelihood that the trial will go ahead in my absence?
- If the trial goes ahead in my absence, will I be able to get a re-trial, or be able to challenge the decision in another way?
- What is the likelihood that the authorities will request my extradition? (Please refer to question below ‘What is extradition’ for further information.)
- Are there any other ways in which I might be able to take part in this hearing? For example, could I participate via video-link?
I have already been sentenced in another country. Can I serve my sentence in the country where I live?
This might be possible if you live in an EU country, and you have been sentenced to serve time in prison in a different EU country. This is made possible by a law known as ‘Council Framework Decision 2008/909/JHA’, which makes it possible for you to transfer your prison sentence from one country to another where you are a resident. Check with your lawyer to find out if this option is available to you.
How do I find a lawyer?
There are various ways you can identify a local lawyer. You can find some general advice in ‘Dos and don’ts after arrest‘ and ‘How to instruct a lawyer and prepare a defence‘.
In many countries, legal aid might not be available if you have not been arrested, and you might have difficulty accessing legal aid if you are not physically present in the country.
What is extradition?
Extradition is a process by which an individual is taken from one country (or territory) to another so that they can be prosecuted and tried, or if they have already been found guilty, to serve their sentence. In extradition proceedings, the country that is asking for your extradition is often called the ‘requesting state’ and the country from which you face extradition (the country where you are), is often called the ‘executing state’.
Between countries in the European Union, the process under which individuals are transferred for one country to another for the purpose of prosecution or to serve a sentence is slightly different. Please refer to the information we have produced on the European Arrest Warrant (‘EAW’) for further information.
Extradition is different from deportation, which refers to the process of removing someone from one country (or territory) to another for immigration reasons (for example, if you do not have a valid visa to stay in the country).
I am being accused of a crime in another country, am I going to be extradited?
This will depend on:
- Whether or not the country where you are being accused decides to ask for your extradition; and
- How the authorities of the country where you are act in response to the extradition request.
Factors that determine the likelihood of your extradition include the following:
- The existence of an extradition treaty between the two countries. Most extraditions take place where there is an agreement between two or more countries that facilitate extraditions. The conditions under which you can be extradited might depend on what that agreement says. Extraditions between countries where such an agreement does not exist are uncommon, but not unheard of;
- The seriousness, or the type of offence;
- If you have been convicted, the length of your sentence;
- Your nationality. Certain countries do not extradite their own nationals, whereas others (including, for example, the United Kingdom and the United States of America) do so often;
- Human Rights. Many countries refuse extradition if they believe that if it will result in serious human rights violations.
The likelihood of your extradition is likely to depend heavily on matters specific to your case, and the extradition laws of the country where you are. It is therefore very important that you seek legal advice.
I have been requested for extradition. What do I do?
If you have been requested for extradition, we would recommend (if possible) that you to hire two lawyers – an extradition lawyer in the country from which you are facing extradition, and a criminal lawyer in the country that is requesting your extradition. There are several reasons for this, including the following:
- Extraditions can be difficult to resist, and it can be helpful to ensure that your lawyer is given as much time as possible to prepare your defence if your efforts to challenge the extradition are unsuccessful. If you are facing extradition to a country that enables you to enter into an agreement that could result in reduced charges or lower sentences in exchange for an acceptance of guilt or cooperation, your lawyer might find it easier to secure a better deal for you if you start negotiations early.
- Your criminal lawyer in the country which is requesting your extradition might be able to provide information to your extradition lawyer that might be relevant to your extradition proceedings. This could, for example, include information about your case, the laws of the country, and information about how you are likely to be treated if you are extradited.
- In certain countries, your decision to resist extradition could have an impact on your criminal proceedings in the country that is seeking your extradition. You may wish to clarify this with the lawyer in that country.