Unknown jurisdiction. Who gets to prosecute?

Suppose, for example, a car enters the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel (which connects New York and New Jersey) with two People in the car. The toll booth clerk can confirm that the car had two live people. When the car emerges in New York, the passenger is dead from a gunshot wound. The driver is holding the smoking gun, has gunpowder residue on his hands, etc. It is not known at what point in the tunnel the person did the killing.

So, who gets to prosecute? New York, because the crime was discovered there? New Jersey, since that’s where the victim was last discovered? Or can NY and NJ create a “legal fiction” where they can just assume that it occured in one or the other and allow whichever one of them that wants to to prosecute? Or can the driver be prosecuted in both states (since its two different jurisdictions, I’m fairly certain that double jeopardy would not come into play).

Zev Steinhardt

I don’t know, but I’ll be darned if that doesn’t sound like a “Law and Order” plot.

In Virgnia or Texas because that’s where the DA can most probably get a death penalty :wink:

It appears to me that New York could prosecute because the body was found in New York.

You could go for the state residence of the “alleged” shooter, or have the NJ/NY DAs fight it out for control. The other scenario: Forgive me for not knowing this, but I’ve only been in the Holland Tunnel once. But… for the sake of argument, let’s say the Holland Tunnel is part of the highway system, so we could say that crime occured on interstate highway. The feds could then step in.


Good call on the cheap shot! This is an actual query on the legal system of NY and NJ, thanks for your political views. Go away.

New Jersey on the subject:

Subsection e. reminds us that we need to check whether NY and NJ have particular rules for the Holland Tunnel. Sorry, I’m not so familiar with the laws of these states to have found it yet.
I think that NJ could try to proseute by alleging that one of the element sof murder occurred in New Jersey.

Since a state of mind is an element of the crime, NJ should be able to show that an element of the crime occurred in NJ.

On balance, I’d say that NY has an easier argument for jurisdiction, but we’d need to review the case law to see if anything has been modified through precedent.

Would the federal government be able to prosecute since the crime involved interstate transportation?

1- It is not an actual query on the legal system of NY or NJ. Those are just used as an example to illustrate the question.

2- That was a joke and does not represent my political views.

3- You have 5 posts and have decided to start moderating this forum already? Good luck.

Many jurisdictions have laws that create presumptions about jurisdiction such as the New York statute above.

The mere fact that a crime is committed on an interstate highway is not enough to invoke federal jurisdiction. Interstate highways are not federal property.

I love the tendency of posters to quickly and confidently post absolutely wrong answers. I wish they’d stop.

  • Rick

There’s probably even more specific jurisdictional law on the issue. Where a boundary line between states is in the center of a navigable waterway, like the Hudson River, it is usual for each of the two states to have concurrent jurisdiction over crimes committed on the river without regard to the actual boundary line. A state will on occasion prosecute violations of its own laws that actually occur on the part of the river within the boundaries of its neighbor state. This principle also applies to offenses commited on bridges spanning the river, and presumably, to tunnels going under it. Jurisdiction is likely concurrent between NY and NJ as to crimes commited at indeterminate points in the Holland Tunnel.

Considering the traffic in the Tunnel, it is probable that there was at least one witness to the shooting that would determine exactly where the original shot was fired. Even if the death occured after the shot, I believe that the act would be the basis for prosecution.

At common law, that would be correct. Murder is accomplished at the place the whwre the fatal force impinges on the victim’s body, rather than where the force is initiated or where the victim dies. There was an 1859 case where a man was shot in New York and died in New Jersey that held that jurisdiction is proper in the state where the bullet strikes. That would be abrogated by statute, though, and there’s very likely such a statute in place, as discussed above.

Here we go.
New York Code of Criminal Procedure Sec. 20.40 (4):
Jurisdiction of such offense is accorded to the courts of such county pursuant to any of the following rules:

(d) An offense committed anywhere on the Hudson River southward of the northern boundary of New York City, or anywhere on New York Bay between Staten Island and Long Island, may be prosecuted in any of the five counties of New York City.

I’m guessing New Jersey has a similar provison.

pravnik, I would have quoted that section if I knew all that much about the geography of NY and NJ. I really should travel more often.

Don’t feel too bad, I had to look up which river the tunnel ran under! And you were right, subsection e of the New jersey statute was on point as to the specific issue.

In Canada, the Criminal Code has a specific provision dealing with this issue. Criminal law is uniform throughout Canada, but is prosecuted in the provincial courts by provincial Crown prosecutors, so it’s necessary to determine which province has jurisdiction. The short answer is that in a case like this, the matter could be prosecuted in either jurisdiction:

My initial impression is that para. © would apply to the tunnel hypothetical, since the vehicle was in a “journey” between the two jurisdictions. Alternatively, if it could be shown that parts of the offence occurred in one jurisdiction (e.g., planning and deliberation, for the case of first degree murder), but the shooting occurred in another, then para. (b) would likely apply. Either way, it would then be a question of balance of convenience - which police forces were involved, where are the majority of the witnesses located, and so on. (Since the criminal law is uniform, the question of penalty would be irrelevant.)

Digression: para. (b) was actually used some years ago in the prosecution of a federal Cabinet minister. The Quebec courts had recently reached a decision he disagreed with, and he commented on it in the Parliament buildings, essentially calling the judge stupid. He was cited for contempt before the Quebec courts, and tried to argue it was outside their jurisdiction, since he said the words in Ontario.

Unforturnately for him, the Parliament buildings are located on the banks of the Ottawa River, which is the boundary between Ontario and Quebec. Therefore he was within 500 metres of the boundary when he said the words, and para. (b) gave the Quebec courts jurisdiction.