A question of police jurisdiction

I’m enjoying a new hobby - collecting material with which to fight a traffic ticket. I’ve learned a lot of cool things along the way, and I’ve got a layered defense that you couldn’t scratch with a photon topedo, but in the interests of being thorough, I’d like clarification on the following point from a qualified Doper:

Does the authority of a cop in a tiny municipality to write speeding tickets extend to other tiny municipalities which border the cop’s own tiny municipality? To wit: Podunk PD Officer JimmyBob thinks he sees me speeding. He’s forgotten (or he’s counting on me not noticing) that I’m actually in the City of Boonie Heights - while he’s still in Podunk. Would he have authority to cross into Boonie Heights, stop me and write me a citation? Particularly one where the Citation reads “PLAINTIFF: City of Podunk”?

I have no intention of actually using this point, as it’s several layers down in the order of reasons to Move for Dismissal, but why not make sure all the ducks are in a row?

The question could have different answers depending on the state and the particular infraction.

The ability of the officer to write a ticket outside his small town is probably the least contentious issue.

Its hard to imagine that the plaintif could be the cioty of podunk. its particularly difficult to imagine if it is a local speeding violation rather then a state violation enforced locally.

Courts generally have limited geographic jurisdiction.

I would look closer at this if I were you. What may seem a bulletproof defence to the layman can often be greeted with amusement from the bench. This, on the other hand, is the kind of thing that can produce a slam dunk.

I think this may fall under cross-deputization, a subject I am only dimly familiar with. Generally, but not always, adjacent jurisdictions will allow a quarter-mile or more “leeway” into each other’s territory. It’s designed to prevent an officer being powerless to prevent a crime being committed just outside of his own jurisdiction. (This apparently has happened, particularly on Indian reservations, where the issue is much dodgier.) I believe cross-deputization is also used to allow pursuit across borders.

Ned’s right, though. You’re going to have to look specifically to your locality for the final answer.

Thanks for the response, Ned.

The alleged violation is listed on my copy of the citation as Local Ord._____. So it’s a local ordinance, not a state law being enforced locally, unless somebody has taken the trouble to mirror the state laws in the local ordinances.

And I’m looking my copy of the citation how, and it does indeed say, right up there at the top: PLAINTIFF: City of, well, you don’t mind if I leave that out, do you? Let’s just say it really does say, City of Podunk.

Believe me, this is not my only defense. I’m just trying to sort through the various layers to decide which ones should be presented in which order to save as much of the court’s time as possible.

In Virginia, the answer would depend on whether the two municipalities shared a common county, or if the city was an incorporated or unincorporated city.

However, the rule is that an court in County A has no jurisdiction over an offense committed in County B. The officer, however, generally has police power within the entire state.

So Officer JimmyBob may well have the authority to write a citation, it must charge an offense committed in the City of Boonie Heights, which I’m assuming is in Boone County – not the City of Podunk, the county seat of Podunk County.

One of the elements of the offense of speeding is that it was committed within Such-and-so county, and you can move for dismissal on jurisdictional claims if the Commonwealth doesn’t prove that element beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Rick

Thanks, Sofa King.

I expect cross-deputization would obtain if Officer JimmyBob saw a suspect commit an offense in City of Podunk, but didn’t actually cite said suspect until they were in Boonie Heights. Clear cross-deputization.

But can he see an infraction in Boonie Heights, go there, collar the suspect and drag him back to Podunk to issue the citation, and issue the citation in the name of Podunk?

Thanks, Rick.

Yep, Officer JimmyBob, with PODUNK written on the side of his car, saw something happen in Boonie Heights, went there, pulled the suspect over (back into Podunk) and wrote a citation for violation of a Local Ordinance, with CITY OF PODUNK as the Plaintiff. Both these metropoli are within BF EGYPT County.

What do you think?

I would say Bricker’s explanation has more relevance to the situation. In general a peace officer is recognized state wide at least for some purposes. Here you need to look into the origin of the local ordinance to determine if it is city or county.

Lets also not fall into the trap of new lawyers who think the law is everything. If the ticket isn’t clear on its face as to the location the cop can say you were inside.

A police officer has jurisdiction within the municipality in which he has been appointed. A city policeman has jurisdiction within his city. A county deputy has jurisdiction within his county. A state trooper has jurisdiction within the state. Any officer can pursue a criminal “in hot pursuit” beyond his jurisdiction. Adjoining municipalities may have an agreement to allow their police jurisdiction over adjoining areas. For example, the Cooper River Bridge connects Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. Both municipalities have an agreement to allow the other municipality’s police jursidiction over the bridge.

Charleston, SC presents a tricky situation for its local police. Its boundaries meander quite a bit due to many annexations. They have to be aware at all times whether they are still in the city.

In federal property, such as the federal bldg., there is joint jurisdiction between the local police and the fedl police.

I’ve got a fun story that sort of relates, but really doesn’t. What the heck, let me tell it anyway.

I live in NYC. I got a parking ticket while visiting a frind on Roosevelt Island. R.I. is an island in the East River which separates Manhattan (New York County) from Queens (Queens County).

Here’s the tricky part. There is no bridge that connects Manhattan and R.I., but there is one from Queens to R.I., so the Queens cops patrol the island; so naturally, my ticket said that my parking offense took place in Queens. Trouble is – though most NYers don’t realize it – Roosevelt Island is legally part of Manhattan, and thus New York County, not Queens!

I realized that I could not argue the ticket on juristictional grounds (cops in all the NYC counties/boroughs can write tickets for anywhere in the whole city), but I could argue that the ticket was defective – that is, the county of the parking offense was wrong.

A long story short: they didn’t buy it, and I had to pay the fine. Oh well, it was a good try I thought.

In my state, municipal police officers are all deputized in the county sheriff’s department. Outside their municipality, they don’t normally worry about minor stuff like traffic tickets, but if they see a crime being committed, they can enforce the law anywhere in the county. Even outside their jurisdiction, they usually carry guns and handcuffs, even off-duty. If nothing else, they could make a “citizen’s arrest” and hold a suspect until the local police arrived.

Once, an off-duty officer was investigating something suspicious, and asked a co-worker of mine to call the dispatcher to request assistance. The dispatcher put out an emergency “officer in distress” call, and our street was inundated with cops from every state, county, and local police department within twenty miles! There was even a helicopter from the U.S. Border Patrol!