(CN) - The prosecuting country should decide which charges a European arrest warrant applies to, the Court of Justice ruled.
Germany referred the question to the European Union's high court after initially opposing an arrest warrant against an Italian drug dealer who was later charged with organized trafficking.
An Italian court convicted Gaetano Mantello in 2005 for possession of cocaine with intent to sell. Mantello served a reduced sentence of just over 10 months for the charge.
In 2008, the Italian court issued a European arrest warrant alleging that Mantello had trafficked drugs in Italy and Germany during the same pre-conviction period.
Germany arrested Mantello but hesitated in extraditing him, since German law didn't authorize it in light of the sentence already served.
Although Italian law also prohibits double jeopardy, Italian investigators justified their wait by saying they wanted to gather as much evidence as possible before prosecuting the trafficking charge against Mantello.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice said the core question was whether Mantello's 2005 sentencing constituted a "final judgment."
The court said the answer to this should be deferred to the country that originally issued the arrest warrant. In its ruling, the Court of Justice touched on the high degree of trust required between EU countries for carrying out European arrest warrants, which are intended to streamline extradition.
If the issuing country says a judgment is not final, the other member state is required to enforce the arrest warrant, the court concluded.
Germany released Mantello in March 2009, but soon executed the arrest warrant when Italy clarified its intent to further prosecute him.