Fugitives in Mexico and Article 4 Prosecution
The Attorney General provides assistance to local law enforcement agencies when a homicide or other major crime has been committed by an individual who flees to Mexico to avoid arrest and prosecution in Texas. The Attorney General may serve as a liaison between local law enforcement agencies and the Mexican authorities when the U.S. authorities request the prosecution of a suspect in Mexico's courts. The Attorney General can also serve as a resource to local prosecutors who may wish to seek extradition of a fugitive from Mexico.
The Mexican Federal Penal Code, under Article 4, allows for the domestic prosecution of Mexican nationals who commit crimes in a foreign country and then flee back to Mexico in search of a safe haven from prosecution. Article 4 of the Mexican Federal Penal Code permits a state or federal agency to request of the Mexican authorities that a suspected criminal be arrested and prosecuted in Mexico.
Texas prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals should keep in mind that the Mexican federal authorities are not obligated to extradite fugitives to the United States, or accept and prosecute Article 4 cases in Mexico. However, Mexican officials are willing to discuss fugitive cases with their American counterparts, and to conduct Article 4 prosecutions when appropriate. Cases considered for Article 4 prosecution should meet the same sufficiency of evidence standard to warrant prosecution in Texas courts.
Crimes committed in a foreign country by a Mexican citizen against a foreign citizen, or by a foreign citizen against a Mexican citizen will be punished in the Republic of Mexico, in accordance with federal law, if the following requirements are met:
- That the defendant be in the Republic of Mexico;
- That the defendant has not been definitively tried in the country where the crime was committed; and
- That the crime with which the defendant is charged be a crime in both the country where it was committed and the Republic of Mexico.
Article 4 is primarily used when a Mexican national commits a crime in the U.S. and then flees to Mexico. It is also available when a U.S. citizen commits a crime against a Mexican national in the United States and then flees to Mexico, but it is not generally used in this case. Normally, when the fugitive is a U.S. citizen, U.S. authorities seek to have the suspect returned to the United States through extradition for trial in the appropriate jurisdiction. Information on how to initiate extradition proceedings is also available from the Attorney General's Law Enforcement Liaison.
Article 4 is not generally used when the fugitive is a citizen of neither the United States nor Mexico. For these cases, extradition is one option; another option is to establish that the suspect meets the criteria of an undesirable alien in Mexico. In that case, the suspect can be expelled from Mexico through Mexican Immigration and then tried in the United States.
The OAG publishes a manual that outlines how the Article 4 process works and the services available to Texas prosecutors through the Office of the Attorney General. We are hopeful that prosecutors not only in Texas, but throughout the United States, will avail themselves of this alternative to the arduous and sometimes unsuccessful extradition process.