It may have happened to someone you know. It will probably happen to you sooner or later. Maybe it was that download from that site. Maybe it was something you said about the US president on Facebook. Maybe it was just mistaken identity. All you know is that you were having breakfast one moment, and the next the local constable is at your door with two gentlemen from Tallinn. He's apologetic, but there's a hard set to his face you haven't seen before and it's clear you're to come with them, and now. What are the charges? They don't know, but it's all in a dossier they have in the capital city, in a foreign language and they say it looks pretty official. Yes, it's happened, you think as they push your head down. You're about to be…extradited.
What sorts of charges can I expect?
If you're lucky, you will be facing libel charges in Britain. Britain has a relatively high standard of living, not that you would find out first-hand, but it can be evident in certain aspects of civility and politeness you experience in your new life in pre-trial holding centers. Extradition will be automatic because Britain is nominally in the EU. From the capital of your country, you will be on the way to Gatwick the very next day.
The negative side, as noted, is that libel cases drag on for years. You could find yourself in legal limbo where your case never comes to trial due to a backlog and where you waste away in a regional holding center, although you will find yourself treated with respect, including behind your back, probably because the officials have an interest in avoiding slander charges themselves.
The libel charges against you could be based on anything you said in the last seven years online. The governments have maintained a rigorously cross-linked registry of IP addresses, MAC numbers and usage habits, so it's all on the record.
But the content of what you said may be contestable. Make sure you find out what the charges against you are before the case goes to trial, i.e. what they claim you said. This may be hard to do.
If you do succeed in finding out anything about your case, a last-ditch but surprising recourse may be to cite differences between British and US English -- sometimes a good strategy is just to own up to making the libelous statement but counter that the statement means the opposite in another variety of English.
But are libel charges out of thin air really a possibility for an ordinary citizen?
Tax charges in the US are another distinct possibility.
For anyone? Say I'm a guy with a paint shop in Tõrva. I don't have any business in the US.
It doesn't matter. If you own any property anywhere, it is a technically a piece of the global pie and the value of your property affects the percentage of American assets with respect to the rest of the world, and thus affects the money global investors have staked on making those assets grow. If you didn't do what you were supposed to, you could be in trouble with the IRS.
What should I have done?
Found out what your obligations were, obviously. And forms. Downloaded forms. Filled out forms. The more the better. And declared income, especially income not earned in the US but which was income contingent on US assets.
Contingent on US assets?
I know what you might be about to say, but ignorance of the law is no excuse. In fact, actually, ignorance of the law is punishable as a separate offense, under a US Congress bill being prepared for ratification right now by committee in a leading EU member. An extraditable offense.
This is crazy.
Look. If you have money, people will want it, including powerful people with bad cash flow. One of the best ways of getting it is to claim you said things that insulted their honor. Or the honor of their money. In another age, such matters were settled more speedily, in a duel. But now we rely on seconds -- trusted alternates known as the Justice Department and Interpol.
Think of yourself as lucky. If you're unluckier (and have specific enemies who know who you are), you may be charged with a sex crime based on unreliable testimony. However, this is usually reserved for politically exposed persons.
Sex crimes? Rape?
No, not rape, anything but. Some sort of failed attempt. You'll probably be in for something that sounds ineffectual and kinky and utterly perverted, like attempted frottage.
But if you're seriously unlucky, you will find yourself facing child pornography charges. The worst case scenario in this case is extradition to the US. While you're guaranteed to be raped in any US prison, in the case of sex offenders, the first rape usually happens as soon as the pretrial detention stage. In fact it could happen on the airplane ride to the US, when you are handcuffed to a Federal Marshal.
Unlike the case with libel, do not make an effort to find out anything about your case. Asking to be shown the culpable material can lead to even more serious charges, up to and including the death penalty.
On second thought, being on death row can substantially reduce the frequency of rape, so this may not be a bad idea. If you're being extradited to the US, you're basically a goner, so might as well take the most sequestered option.
This thing about rape in US prison…
Aboslutely true. There's a lot of differences in jurisprudence from state to state -- they need to have another Civil War to clear it up -- but one thing is certain, when push comes to poke. You will be violated. Multiple times. A whole dang bunch of times, as they say down there.