If a Crime Occurs in Two or More States, Can Each Prosecute it?You cannot be charged twice in one state for a crime that you were convicted of. However, you can be charged twice in different states for the same crime. There is a protection against double jeopardy, which is the actual term for being charged twice for the same criminal act. If a single act violates the law in two separate states, then the law will treat them as separate offenses and this will not be in conflict with that clause. Sometimes the second state will see that the first state chose to convict and will think that is fair, so charges will be dropped. However, it will be the discretion of the particular prosecutor whether or not that happens.

What is Dual Sovereignty?

Heath v. Alabama, a very popular case, will give you a fair description of what dual sovereignty is and when it applies. In this 1985 case, the U.S. Supreme Court had to make some pretty huge decisions. Two men were hired by a defendant to murder his wife. The victim (wife) was kidnapped in Alabama, but her body was later found in Georgia. In Georgia, the defendant pleaded guilty in exchange for life in prison; however, in Alabama, he was convicted of murder and was sentenced to death. When the Alabama charges came forth, the defendant claimed double jeopardy. This was rejected by the lower courts and it was stated that the dual sovereignty doctrine applied in the case. The peace and dignity of two sovereigns were disrupted and two distinct offenses were committed in this case.

Sentencing conflicts may typically arise when jurisdictions convict a defendant for a single criminal act. The defendant from the previously mentioned case was executed in Alabama in 1992, even though he was first sentenced to life in prison in Georgia. Georgia, in this case, ceded its primary jurisdiction to Alabama.

More About Jurisdiction Rules

There are three types of jurisdictions that you may want to know more about. These are federal, state, and concurrent jurisdictions.

  • Federal: Federal courts mainly have exclusive jurisdiction over federal offenses. Federal jurisdiction usually occurs when the crime occurred on land owned by the federal government, the offense took place on a ship flying the American flag, or the crime crossed state lines or involved interstate commerce. Federal jurisdiction can also sometimes extend to offenses occurring on Native American reservations, but this depends on circumstances surrounding the case.
  • State: Crimes that occur within a specific state’s borders or within three miles of its coastline are prosecuted by the state courts. However, sometimes federal land will reside inside that state and then it will be considered federal jurisdiction. State law will decide what courts have jurisdiction over some types of cases. Most states also have juvenile courts, it is a good idea to remember, which have exclusive jurisdiction over crimes committed by minors.
  • Concurrent: This type of jurisdiction exists where more than one court can claim power to decide a case. In many cases, the first court to exercise its jurisdiction rights will usually keep the case for some time. However, if another one wants a say in it, they must wait until the case is over in the first court.

This can be an extremely complex law with many decisions. Because of this, it is a good idea to have a lawyer on your side if you have committed a crime that took place in two different states. You can call the Blair Law Firm today for more information. Speak to an attorney today and get your chance at a fair trial.