Art. IV; Clause 2. A person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
Duty to Surrender Fugitives From Justice
Although this provision is not in its nature self–executing, and there is no express grant to Congress of power to carry it into effect, that body passed a law shortly after the Constitution was adopted, imposing upon the Governor of each State the duty to deliver up fugitives from justice found in such State. The Supreme Court has accepted this contemporaneous construction as establishing the validity of this legislation. The duty to surrender is not absolute and unqualified; if the laws of the State to which the fugitive has fled have been put in force against him, and he is imprisoned there, the demands of those laws may be satisfied before the duty of obedience to the requisition arises. But, in Kentucky. v. Dennison, the Court held that this statute was merely declaratory of a moral duty; that the Federal Government “has no power to impose on a State officer, as such, any duty whatever, and compel him to perform it; . . .”, and consequently that a federal court could not issue a mandamus to compel the governor of one State to surrender a fugitive to another. Long considered a constitutional derelict, Dennison was finally formally overruled in 1987. Now, States and Territories may invoke the power of federal courts to enforce against state officers this and other rights created by federal statute, including equitable relief to compel performance of federally–imposed duties.