The United States v. Alvarez-Machain Case

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The defendant, Alvarez, was kidnapped by Drug Enforcement Administration agents while working in his Mexican office. In the United States, a warrant for his arrest was issued for his alleged involvement in torture and murder of an officer affiliated to DEA. A motion to dismiss the indictment was filed on Alvarez’s behalf, claiming that his kidnapping violated an agreement between the US and Mexico on the contextual issue of extradition. All charges against the defendant were dropped outright due to the court’s approval of the petition at the district level. Then the Court of Appeal upheld the former decision, which the US Supreme court later granted.

Procedural History

According to the trial court’s jurisdiction, Alvarez was kidnapped from Mexico on April 2, 1990, missing since that date. Trent Tompkins, a private citizen from Claysville, Pennsylvania, who DEA agents had hired to kidnap him, was identified as the perpetrator. Despite Mexican authorities’ protests, his extradition to the United States and the subsequent trial went off without a hitch. As previously stated, it was an issue for the US supreme court to decide the impact of unlawful extradition on the jurisdictional power of the court of trial in the first instance. It was informed that legal action was pending in this regard. The case was eventually dismissed (the United States v. Alvarez-Machain, 1992). Using the “Ker–Frisbie doctrine,” the United States Supreme Court determined that how an accused was brought before a trial court had no bearing on the trial court’s jurisdiction over the case at hand. There has been widespread international condemnation and concern resulting from the decision, with other countries fearing that it will pave the way for more kidnappings in the future.

As a result of strong protests from the Mexican government, Alvarez was charged in a court in the Southeast District of the Californian state; the trial was dominated by his defense’s emphasis on the legality of his arrest. The outcome was Alvarez’s acquittal. Following the conclusion of the government’s case-in-chief, the government was granted amnesty for the first time without having to go through a jury trial. After concluding that the government had failed to establish even the most basic evidence, the trial judge (whose previous decision dismissing an indictment had been overturned by the Supreme Court) denied the accusation. After being apprehended and convicted, he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for his alleged participation in the murder.


Consider the following scenario: the United States and another country have an extradition treaty in place. Does this imply that the kidnapping of a citizen of that country from the United States does not constitute a violation of the treaty in question?


Forced kidnapping has no bearing on a person’s ability to stand trial for a crime in a criminal court. According to constitutional procedural safeguards, someone is found guilty of a crime after being reasonably informed of the charges against them and subjected to a fair trial. In the United States, no provision in the Constitution mandates a court to let an innocent person go free simply because he was forced to stand trial.


According to most of the court’s decisions, there is no distinction between private citizen acts that do not violate treaty obligations and executive branch-authorized conduct that constitutes defiance in the context of international law and adds to breaches by countries obligated to observe the USA treaty. There is currently no treaty between the US and another country that prohibits the kidnapping of a citizen from that country and transporting them to the US for trial. As previously stated, abduction does not prevent a foreign national from being prosecuted for an act of violence against them. Another question is whether the kidnapping violated any extradition treaties that may have existed between the US and the country where the abducted person was supposed to be at the time. It is irrelevant in this case because international law only applies in the absence of an extradition treaty. Abductions such as those that occurred, in this case, are not illegal because the extradition treaty does not prohibit them.

In international law, there is no legal framework and policy for evaluating the effect and implementation of the prohibition on international kidnappings, as has been done in some cases. According to the respondent’s argument, drawing such a conclusion from the agreement would violate established precedent and practice and international law itself because forced kidnappings are unlawful under international law, which As a result, the abduction and transportation of the respondent to meet the United States violate international law. Although the treaty’s language and its negotiation and implementation history do not support the notion that it forbids abductions that violate its terms, its negotiation and execution history does. The treaty makes no mention of either country’s obligation to refrain from abduction or associated consequences. Because neither country has ratified the treaty, prosecutions against defendants who violate the terms of an extradition treaty are barred. Even if the defendant is forcibly kidnapped, a court may still have jurisdiction over him if no agreement is invoked.

Although Alvarez was defeated in this battle, he was still victorious overall. In the city of Los Angeles, he was tried and convicted of murder in 1993. A trial judge, Edward Rafeedie, ruled that the prosecution’s case had been dismissed due to a lack of evidence after hearing testimony from both sides. As a result, the judge used harsh language in his order, as if he believed the case should never have been brought in the first place in the first instance.


United States v. Alvarez-Machain, 504 U.S. 655 (1992). Justia Law. (1992).

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DemoEssays. (2023) 'The United States v. Alvarez-Machain Case'. 26 February.


DemoEssays. 2023. "The United States v. Alvarez-Machain Case." February 26, 2023.

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DemoEssays. "The United States v. Alvarez-Machain Case." February 26, 2023.