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Foreign nationals extradited to US for drug charges - how far does US Law Enforcement's reach extend?

In an unusual case, a foreign national has been extradited to Miami to face drug charges for a case that originated in the Dominican Republic. Dominican and US forces collaborated to track Jairo Estupinan Micolta, 30, in a collaborative sting operation.

The charges against Estupinan state that in late April of this year, he made contact with an individual in the Dominican Republic to transport cocaine from there to Puerto Rico. He did not realize that his contact was an FBI informant. According to the report, Estupinan agreed to take 70 kilos of cocaine from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. He left Columbia, where he is a resident, and traveled to the Dominican Republic, and, while following through on the plans made with the informant, which included a vehicle and $30,000 in cash, he was arrested and then sent to South Florida for prosecution.

For a foreign national to be arrested on foreign soil and transported to the US for drug charges is uncommon. More frequently, cases that include drug trafficking and foreign nationals involve arrests on open waters.

DEA agents operate under a murky jurisdiction when abroad. As law officers and not military representatives, they are allegedly allowed to defend local law enforcement they may be working with but not otherwise issue fire. However, there have been incidents such as a 2012 shootout in Honduras, where locals claimed that innocent people, including pregnant women, were killed in such a raid.

Land arrests in the past have been problematic in the courts. In a 2010 case that made it to Miami courts after 4 Panamanian nationals gave chase via water then fled to land and were captured. Initially convicted, the finding was overturned because by a panel of judges who found that the US couldn't exert jurisdiction.

Whether Estupinan's case will be found to be under the jurisdiction of US courts has yet to be determined. He is being held in South Florida until trial, which is expected to be sometime in December.

No matter what charges you are facing, the services of an experienced criminal lawyers are critical for ensuring that you receive fair representation.

Sources:

Anger Rises After Killings in U.S.-Honduras Drug Sweep, www.nytimes.com Damien Cavemay 17 May 2012

Foreign national wanted on drug-trafficking charges is flown to Miami, www,miamiherald.com, Alfonso Chardy 26 June 2015

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