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An Overview of Separate Jurisdictions

Separate Jurisdictions Overview

The term jurisdiction refers to the authority of a government to preside over criminal cases and deliver justice through investigation, criminal trials, and criminal sentencing. Within the United States, jurisdiction may fall to various different governments and judicial proceedings may be regulated by the laws of different levels of government.

There are three primary levels of law and Government. They include State governments, the Federal Government, and international laws. When a crime is committed by an individual, a group of individuals, a community, or a foreign government, it must first be determined who has jurisdiction over the case that results. Each level of Government focuses on different types of crimes. It may be impractical for one level of Government to be responsible for maintaining jurisdiction over specific crimes, while it may be reasonable for another level of Government to preside over those cases. There are various different factors that are considered when determining jurisdiction.


Determining jurisdiction is one of the most important aspects of a criminal investigation. In order for an investigation to occur, it must first be determined who has jurisdiction over the case. The term jurisdiction refers to who or what level of Government has the authority to govern a specific case.

Jurisdiction often becomes a point of argument between various authorities. There are a wide range of factors that are taken into account when determining who has jurisdiction over a case. These factors include where the crime was committed, who was involved in the crime, and what types of crimes were committed. Who has jurisdiction over a case may often be very clear and straightforward.

However, in some cases technicalities may cause disagreements over who should maintain jurisdiction over a case. The authorities that are granted jurisdiction are responsible for presiding over a case. Therefore, a thorough criminal investigation cannot begin until jurisdiction is determined.

State Law

In the majority of cases, the State Government is responsible for investigating and punishing criminal activities. Most laws are created at a State level. These laws include laws regarding domestic violence, hunting, and traffic laws. The majority of individuals who take part in deviant behavior will be tried in a State court.

In general, the State maintains jurisdiction over a case if the criminal activity occurred within the State boundaries. Therefore, the State Government will be responsible for collecting evidence, presenting it to a court, and penalizing the offender.

Each State is required to create its own laws, with limited interference from the Federal Government. Laws will vary a great deal from one State to another. Every State will define activities that it considers to be harmful and illegal, and it will create punishments that it considers to be fitting. Crimes that may be punished severely in one State may be punished much less harshly in another State.

Federal Law

The Federal Government has limited power in enforcing criminal laws or punishing criminal activity. In most cases, the creation and enforcement of criminal laws is the responsibility of the State. However, the Federal Government has created some necessary Federal laws that must be adhered to by individuals throughout the country. These Federal laws will often influence the laws that each State develops.

Although the Federal Government has limited power in criminal law cases, the Government may acquire jurisdiction over a case in specific instances. Where the crime took place, who was involved in the criminal activity, and what crimes were committed are all factors that may determine whether or not the Federal Government has jurisdiction over a case. In general, the Federal Government has jurisdiction over cases that involve activity that would be illogical for one State to attempt to investigate and prosecute. A State may also choose to enlist the assistance of the Federal Government in criminal cases.

International Law

Throughout history, the necessity for an effective method of establishing and enforcing international law becomes more and more evident. International law is extremely difficult to enforce because of State sovereignty. Violating a country’s sovereignty may lead to heated disputes and war.

International law is usually focused on punishing crimes against humanity. These may include a wide variety of activities that are used to humiliate, degrade, torture, and hurt other individuals. In many countries, governments use this type of behavior to instill fear, guarantee loyalty, and obtain confessions or information. The United Nations was established in order to create international law and combat crimes against humanity, though enforcing these laws has often proven to be a difficult task.

Philosophies have been adopted that allow any country to try and sentence an individual who is guilty of crimes against humanity. New organizations are being developed in order to help create effective methods of trying and administering sentences for individuals who violate international law.

NEXT: The Separate Jurisdictions of Federal Law

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