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State And Federal Criminal Court Jurisdiction

Personal Jurisdiction Personal jurisdiction in a criminal case is established when the defendant is accused of committing a crime in the geographic area in which the court sits. If a crime results in federal charges, the federal court that sits in the state where the offense was committed has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. In a conspiracy case, the defendants may face prosecution in any jurisdiction in which a conspiratorial act took place. This can include a number of states if at least one conspirator crossed state lines or if the conspiracy involved criminal acts in more than one state. KIDNAPPING is another crime that can establish personal jurisdiction in courts in more than one state, if it involves crossing state lines.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction In criminal cases, the question of jurisdiction is relatively simple. Subject matter jurisdiction is easily decided because criminal courts or the courts of general jurisdiction have automatic subject matter jurisdiction over criminal cases. In most states, minor crimes may be tried in one court, and more serious crimes in another. In Idaho, for example, criminal cases are tried in the district courts. However, misdemeanor cases may be assigned by the district court to a magistrate (Idaho Code § 1-2208 [1996]). (A magistrate is a judge who is authorized to hear minor civil cases and to decide criminal matters without a jury.)

The major question in criminal subject matter jurisdiction is whether the charges are pursuant to federal or state law. If the charges allege a violation of federal CRIMINAL LAW, the defendant will be tried in a federal court that is located in the state in which the offense was committed. If the charges allege a violation of state law, the defendant will face prosecution in a trial court that has jurisdiction over the area in which the offense was committed. If a crime violates both federal and state law, the defendant may be tried twice: once in state court, and once in federal court.

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