The European Arrest Warrant

Imagine for a moment, you are traveling in your car on vacation with a friend who happens to smoke a little pot. You are stopped for speeding and the police find some marijuana in your car. They make a note of it, but arrest neither you nor your friend. A couple of months later, back in your home state there comes an unexpected knock on the door. Handcuffs come out and off you go to spend up to 90 days in jail followed by extradition to the state where you incurred the ticket for speeding.

Preposterous? Of course, and it can’t happen here. But it is happening to travelers within the states of the European Union. Here is Wikipedia’s description of the law.

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is an arrest warrant valid throughout all member states of the European Union (EU). Once issued by a member state, it requires the receiving member state to arrest and transfer a criminal suspect or sentenced person to the issuing state that so that the person can be put on trial or complete a detention period. Extradition must take place within 90 days of arrest or within 10 days if the arrested person consents to surrender.

An EAW can only be issued for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution (not merely an investigation), or enforcing a custodial sentence. An EAW can only be issued for offences carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months or more. Where sentence has already been passed an EAW can  be issued if the prison term to be enforced is at least four months long.

[Edited] The law was intended to increase the speed and ease of extradition  by removing the political and administrative phases of decision-making and converting the process into a system run entirely by the judiciary.

The law is known in Europe as the “No evidence needed” rule. Let us be thankful or the freedoms we have on this side of the pond. Read more.

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