What Does Proper Jurisdiction Mean in Criminal Matters?

Law Firm Newswire



Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) July 22, 2015 – Criminal charges are not processed through just any court. To try a case, the court must have personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction and the power to try an accused for breaking the law.

Jurisdiction equates to the word “power.” A jurisdictional issue over a legal matter has three components:

· The question of whether there is jurisdiction to hand down a judgement sought
· The question of whether there is jurisdiction over the matter in question
· The question of whether or not there is jurisdiction over the individual charged

It may seem odd that a court cannot handle trying a criminal matter without personal jurisdiction, meaning the court only has authority to hear cases involving certain individuals — such as criminal cases where the alleged perpetrator is accused of committing a crime where the court is located. This usually relates to local criminal matters or jurisdiction. For example, if someone carried out a vehicle theft in a city, was apprehended, charged and sent to court, the court would typically be within the city where the theft occurred.

If federal charges are laid, according to the nature of the crime committed, the federal court, which may be located anywhere in a state, tries the matter (has personal jurisdiction). “Interestingly, courts in more than one state may claim jurisdiction over a defendant. An example would be if a kidnapping occurred in one state, but the perpetrators crossed state lines in the furtherance of their crime,” said Lakeland criminal defense attorney, Thomas Grajek.
Federal courts have limited jurisdiction over legal cases and can only hear those that fall under the scope of federal law or the Constitution. State courts hear cases involving state law, and some federal laws that are not strictly in the purview of federal courts.

Subject matter jurisdiction dictates that state courts have general jurisdiction and are able to hear any case, except those set aside for federal courts or those prohibited by state law. At the state (and federal level) there are certain courts that have limited jurisdiction and may only hear certain kinds of cases.

“Generally speaking criminal courts have automatic subject jurisdiction over criminal cases and minor crimes are sent to one court, while major crimes go to another court,” Grajek said. Should a crime break federal and state laws, the accused/defendant may be tried twice — once in federal court and once in state court.

Jurisdictionality has the potential to be extremely convoluted and complex. In fact, even the question of whether a given court has the power to determine a jurisdictional question is itself a jurisdictional question. Such a legal question is referred to as “jurisdiction to determine jurisdiction.”

For further information on the courts in the United States and roles and structures, visit: http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/court-role-and-structure