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Extradition: Is a 14 Week Wait to Be Moved Too Long?

As our office is close to an international airport, LAX, we occasionally receive calls from family members of someone stopped while passing through customs at LAX and who is then detained and held for extradition in Los Angeles County Jail without bail for extradition to another state. 

The process of being transferred to another state can be unfamiliar to most attorneys and so family members who call for advice are often left frustrated. 

We have tried to educate ourselves on this area of the law to represent such folks detained for extradition.

A similar situation is where someone held outside California has pending charges in California and wants to know how he or she can have such California charges dismissed if the defendant is not brought to California for trial. 

Under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, a person serving a sentence of imprisonment in one participating state and subject to detainer for charges pending in another participating state may demand final disposition of those pending charges under Penal Code § 1369 (via extradition under Penal Code § 1584 back to California) within 180 days of  receipt of the demand or be dismissed. 

However, most people in prison are not aware of such laws, so as a threshold matter, the state having custody of the defendant must notify him or her of his pending case(s) in another state and his or her right to demand final disposition of the underlying charges. 

If this is not done, is defendant entitled to dismissal of the charges pending in another state?  The following summary of a man with cases in California and Colorado answers this question.

In December 2016, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed a felony complaint against Quoc Ai Nguyen for violation of Health and Safety Code § 11352, possession for sale and transportation of a controlled substance.

Six months later, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed a second felony complaint against Nguyen, charging him with a further controlled substance offense.

In July 2017, Nguyen was arrested in La Plata County, Colorado for selling marijuana.  The following year, he was convicted and sentenced to six years in Colorado state prison.

On July 18, 2018, while in Colorado state prison, Nguyen sent an informal request to the warden for a final disposition of his pending charges in Santa Clara County.  Two days later, Nguyen also forwarded his request to the District Attorney of Santa Clara County.

In response, the District Attorney of Santa Clara County lodged a detainer action with the Colorado warden, citing Nguyen’s pending felony charges in California.  The Colorado warden acknowledged receipt of the detainer the next day, August 29, 2018. 

It was not until December 5, 2018, a delay of 14 weeks, that the Colorado warden served Nguyen with the detainer action from Santa Clara County and his right to demand final disposition of the charges under Penal Code § 1369.  The same day, Nguyen formal requested final disposition of his California charges under § 1369.  The Santa Clara District Attorney received Nguyen’s request from the Colorado warden on December 21, 2018.

On March 4, 2019, Nguyen was brought to Santa Clara County and was arraigned the next day in his two pending felony matters.  He then moved to dismiss these, citing the lapse of more than 180 days from receipt by the Santa Clara County Superior Court and District Attorney of his informal request for final disposition of his charges.

On May 31, 2019, a judge granted Nguyen’s motion to dismiss, finding that “the clock [under Penal Code § 1389] began in July 2017 when the District Attorney in Santa Clara County began extradition proceedings. 

The Santa Clara County District Attorney filed a motion to compel the magistrate to reinstate the complaints pursuant to Penal Code § 871.5 and the superior court judge granted the motion.

Nguyen thereafter pleaded guilty and the judge sentenced Nguyen to two years in state prison, concurrent to his six-year Colorado term.

Nguyen then appealed to the Third Appellate District, arguing that the Santa Clara judge erred by reinstating the complaints under Penal Code § 871.5 without holding a hearing to determine if the Colorado warden unreasonably delayed notifying him of the detainer and his right to demand extradition under Penal Code § 1389. 

The Third Appellate District denied Nguyen’s appeal and affirmed reinstatement of the complaints, finding that the 180-day period for trial in the other state begins only when the request for final disposition has been delivered to the prosecuting officer, which here was December 21, 2018, not July 2017.  Therefore, the Santa Clara District Attorney had until June 19, 2019 – two weeks after the judge dismissed the complaints – to bring Nguyen to trial.  Any delay caused by the Colorado warden was made before Nguyen made a request for final disposition and before the 180 day period began. 

The Interstate Agreement on Detainers, the Third Circuit pointed out, is silent as to any remedy for violation of notice requirements, so dismissal was not an available remedy.

For more information about extradition, please click on the following articles:
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