Rendition occurs when one state transports a criminal suspect to another state where he’s wanted for breaking the law. For example, suppose the State of Connecticut has issued a warrant for your arrest. If you’re stopped by police in Massachusetts, their data will inform them of the warrant and they’ll arrest you. You’ll be deemed a “fugitive from justice” and the rendition process will begin.
The process is regulated by M.G.L. c. 276, Sections 11 to 20R.
The suspect will be brought before a district court judge and, if indigent, an attorney will be appointed to represent him.
At the hearing, the suspect will be given two options. He can sign a waiver consenting to rendition or he can challenge the rendition.
If the suspect chooses to challenge rendition, he may be held in jail up to 30 days while the matter is being disputed. Bail is permissible, unless the suspect is wanted for a capital offense in the foreign state. Because the suspect is already accused of dodging the courts in another state, the Massachusetts judge may see good reason for imposing a high bail amount.
When rendition is disputed, the suspect will be given “reasonable time” to apply for a writ of habeas corpus contesting his arrest. Massachusetts will also need to obtain documentation authorizing the suspect’s warrant in the foreign state. Though Massachusetts officials must have such documentation before they proceed with rendition, they cannot inquire into the guilt or innocence of the suspect.
If these procedural matters are satisfied, a Massachusetts warrant will issue allowing law enforcement to transport the suspect to the state where he faces charges.
So which option is best? Should you challenge rendition or waive your right to dispute it? The answer, as always, depends on the circumstances of your case.
It’s important to remember that the state seeking the suspect does not need to establish his guilt. The state simply needs to show that there is an outstanding warrant or some other legal grounds for detaining him. So, unless there an issue of mistaken identity, the suspect is almost guaranteed to lose a rendition challenge.
At the same time, there’s a good chance a Massachusetts judge will set a high bail as a condition of release pending the challenge. If you can’t afford the bail, you could spend up to a month in jail as bureaucrats from both states send documents back and forth.
One option is to agree to waive the rendition challenge, in exchange for being immediately transported to the state where you’re sought. This avoids the potential of spending additional time in a Massachusetts jail cell. Prosecutors will often agree to such a proposal. The sooner you get to the state where charges are pending, the sooner you can get to work resolving your case.