Flight diversion to US, outstanding arrest warrant and risk of arrest (Roman Polanski)

Roman Polanski is a prominent example of an individual who is sought by law enforcement in the United States and would be taken into custody there immediately but who can travel in other parts of the world unimpeded. Now, obviously, Polanski and others in his situation just don’t travel to the US because that would be foolish.

But what would happen if Polanski boards a flight from Paris to Rio de Janeiro and the flight is diverted due to severe weather conditions or maybe due to a medical emergency?. The plane has to land at an airport in the United States. I take it that US authorities would be aware of the fact that a person they are looking for is on that plane and arrest him, correct?

Considering this possibility of unforeseen circumstances in air travel, would somebody in Polanski’s situation never travel by plane at all? Or maybe just in continental Europe? Only to Asia, and avoiding the Western hemisphere? Maybe South America, but not Canada oder Mexico?

I don’t know the real law on this, but this was the basis of the movie White Nights (although in that case it was a political defector rather than somebody wanted on criminal charges).

I don’t know the answer to the hypothetical flight diversion to the USA, but as to the rest he hasn’t been able to travel in most of the world since fleeing the USA 35 years ago. He’s wanted by Interpol so if he flew to Brazil he would likely be arrested and extradited to the US even if the flight went smoothly. The same applies to almost every country mentioned in the OP.

He has French citizenship so they refuse to extradite him. Ditto for Poland. He had been allowed to travel and even own a home in Switzerland despite the Interpol warrants for his arrest in 188 countries because, well, it’s Switzerland. But under pressure from the US during the Swiss banking scandal in 2009, they did finally arrest him. They heard his case and ultimately refused to extradite him too.

As far as I know he is only able to travel freely between France, Poland and Switzerland. Any other countries with extradition treaties with the US would probably arrest him and be more likely to extradite than Switzerland or the two countries in which he holds citizenship.

But that flight could still be diverted to Germany or Belgium so there may be a legal answer to the question. If I were him I would take the train.

I also remember reading about at least one case that involved a Vietnam era deserter (an active American soldier who ran away, not just a draft dodger) who had settled in Canada and lived there for decades.

One day, he and his family decided to spend the holidays in Mexico. They booked a flight from Canada to Mexico which had to make an unscheduled landing in the United States. He was arrested by US authorities who were still looking for him. (He was eventually released after 2 weeks or so, IIRC).

Concerning Germany, I know that Polanski has been here many times for highly publicized events and even directed a movie. IIRC his arrest in Switzerland came as a real surprise to everybody, not just him. Polanski owned a house in Switzerland.

He is definitely wanted and red-flagged in the Interpol database, and Germany is an Interpol member, but they might not give the case a very high priority unless a US prosecutor has specific information about when he will be there and files a formal request with the German authorities to arrest and extradite him soon enough for them to be able to do so.

He’s almost 80 years old, his victim of 35 years ago has petitioned to have the charges dismissed, and the case probably just doesn’t have a lot of importance to any agencies outside the US. But I think many other Interpol countries, if pressed by the US with specific information about his location, would be more likely to extradite him than France, Poland or Switzerland.

I found a German news article about this. In the wake of the Switzerland arrest, the German Ministry of Justice said that Polanski was free to travel to Germany and that he would not be arrested. They also said that this decision had been taken a considerable time ago (i. e. long before the arrest in Switzerland).

My guess would be that Germany wouldn’t extradite a citizen of the European Union to the US that easily under any circumstance (unlike the UK).

There were allegations that the Swiss were influenced by the investigation and resulting fines against UBS for helping US citizens evade taxes, although they deny it and they did ultimately refuse to extradite him. If the US were preparing such a case against a major German financial institution or had access to a US citizen wanted badly by Germany, they might consider a request from a US prosecutor to be more important. In general you are probably right, citizenship in any EU country probably affords some level of protection against extradition from many other EU countries. I imagine he is still pretty careful about where and when he travels even within the EU.

Still, any location to which he can travel freely is not very likely to wind up diverting a flight to the US. If it happened hypothetically I’m sure he could be arrested on the spot in full compliance with US and international law.