A reader recently sent in the following question:

I wanted to know how long is a red alert in effect? I mean, when does it expires?
I heard it was 6 months, but I haven’t found the legal basis.
Can you help me please?

This question arises with some frequency, and with reason.  INTERPOL’s member countries circulate Red Notices for people who are wanted either to stand trial or to serve a sentence.  People who are the subjects of Red Notices naturally want to know when it is safe to travel without risking detention or extradition due to an old Red Notice.

Red Notices typically expire after five years.  However, they are subject to renewal if the INTERPOL member country that originally made the request advises INTERPOL that the notice should remain outstanding.  If a subject has not been apprehended after five years from the time the notice was originally issued, she should not assume that the notice no longer exists; it very may well be in effect.

In fact, some notices that should have been cancelled (due to the charges having been dropped, or the sentence having been served already, etc.) still remain in effect months or years later because the requesting member country fails to advise INTERPOL that the notice should be removed.

So the whole answer is that a Red Notice should be removed when its purpose has been served or no longer exists, or after five years, or longer if it’s renewed.

As always, comments and thoughts are welcomed.