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How do state boundaries affect criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2023 | Federal Crimes |

The interstate highway system makes it possible for Texans to visit most of the other states easily. If you prefer to fly, you can hop on a plane and get to far-off locations in just a few hours. Still, if you engage in criminal activity, being in more than one state might expose you to federal prosecution.

As you might imagine, criminal activity can happen in more than one place almost simultaneously. For example, you might transport drugs from Texas to California, potentially violating the law of both states and every state in between.

Crossing state lines

While you certainly can face prosecution in any jurisdiction where you break the law, it is common for federal prosecutors to file criminal charges against individuals who physically cross state lines when committing crimes. This is because the entire crime occurs in the jurisdiction of the U.S.

Using interstate means

Even if you do not physically cross state lines when committing a crime, you might use interstate means, such as the internet or the mail system. Crimes involving interstate commerce or devices usually fall within the jurisdictions of the federal government. Indeed, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI officers typically investigate these criminal activities.

Understanding double jeopardy

As you probably know, the U.S. Constitution protects you from double jeopardy, so prosecutors usually cannot try you twice for the same crime. The double jeopardy clause does not apply to different levels of government, however. Put differently, one crime might violate both state and federal law.

Ultimately, if you commit a crime that crosses state lines or uses interstate means, you might have to defend yourself in federal court and in more than one state court.

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