First of all, you may wonder what jurisdiction actually is. Jurisdiction is the power of a court to hear and decide cases. When criminal law applies, there is also a power to impose punishment. What are the types of jurisdiction in criminal cases?
- Subject-matter jurisdiction: This is the power to hear and decide certain kind of cases. This can include criminal or civil. Subject-matter jurisdiction is determined by statutes and constitutional provisions.
- Territorial jurisdiction: This includes the geographic boundaries of a court’s jurisdiction. You might consider an example where municipal courts have no jurisdiction over crimes that occur outside of city limits.
- Personal jurisdiction: This is a consideration of whether or not the court has jurisdiction over a particular defendant. An example of this is the fact that juvenile courts typically lose jurisdiction over minors after they turn eighteen years old.
- General and limited jurisdiction: If a court is involved with general jurisdiction, they can hear mostly any case; whereas, with limited jurisdiction, only some cases can be handled. Limited jurisdiction, in many states, may apply to misdemeanors and other petty crimes. General jurisdiction mainly applies to felonies. If both a felony and a misdemeanor are committed, the felony court can typically exercise jurisdiction for both offenses.
- Exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction: Exclusive jurisdiction applies when it is the only court that can hear and decide a case. If concurrent jurisdiction applies, this means that more than one court has jurisdiction over the case.
A Further Look Into Federal Jurisdiction
Federal courts, for the most part, have exclusive jurisdiction over federal offenses. On the other hand, state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over state offenses. This applies even though some kinds of conduct qualify as both state and federal offenses (such as in a case of a police officer murdering a citizen). Federal criminal jurisdiction will tend to happen when the crime occurred on land owned or controlled by the federal government (like a national park), when the offense took place on a ship flying the American flag (no matter what waters it occurred on), or if the crime crossed state lines or involved interstate commerce (like kidnapping or drug trafficking).
Federal courts can sometimes even have jurisdiction in a crime case that occurred in a foreign country. This is under the circumstance that the defendant intended an effect to occur inside the U.S. This could include a terrorist attack. Depending on the country, however, it may be an issue getting the defendant to arrive to court. Along with that, federal jurisdiction may also extend to offenses that occur on Native American reservations.
A Further Look Into State Jurisdiction
State court sees most crimes that occur within the state’s borders or within three miles of its coastline. If a crime occurs on federal land within a state’s borders, then it will usually be seen as a federal offense.
A Further Look Into Concurrent Jurisdiction
This type of jurisdiction exists where more than one court can claim power to make a decision on a case. More than one state might have jurisdiction on where the crime began and where it continued. The first court to exercise jurisdiction over the defendant will usually keep the case to itself. If any other courts want to claim jurisdiction, they will have to wait until the case is over or the first court releases the jurisdiction.