What is jurisdiction—and how does it affect your case?
Learn the pitfalls of going it alone without the help of a Columbus criminal defense attorney
The situation is this. You’re driving on a road in one city, pass into another, only to get pulled over by a cop in the first city. “Not fair!” you cry. But they give you the ticket, or worse yet, charge you with OVI. Or even worse, they search the car and find some contraband (think marijuana).
We get this all the time. Folks come in to discuss their case and cry, “Jurisdiction!” The sad news is that most of the time, it doesn’t really matter.
In the sixties, there was a group of US Supreme Court justices who created all sorts of novel concepts premised on enforcing the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the Constitution. One of the most critical, and debated, is the Fourth Amendment, which states that law enforcement can’t search without a warrant. Or, for more complicated situations, they have to have a pretty good reason to search if they don’t have a warrant.
Back to the example.
Let’s assume that the cops search your car without a warrant and without a good reason. What happens? Well, before the court decisions in the ‘60s, the answer was pretty much nothing.
But then along came that group of judges who decided to do something to enforce the Fourth Amendment. They adopted as a national standard, the “exclusionary rule.” In basic terms, this rule says that the prosecutor can’t use the evidence against you if the cops found it through an unlawful search.
If they search your car unlawfully and find marijuana, the prosecutor can’t use that evidence against you. What does that mean? That means winner, winner chicken dinner. If there is no evidence, there is no case. And you win.
What does this have to do with jurisdiction?
Here’s the catch. The exclusionary rule generally applies to Constitutional violations, like the Fourth Amendment issue. But there is no mention of jurisdiction in the Constitution. So, even though a cop is outside his jurisdiction when he searches the car, it doesn’t necessarily get you the chicken dinner.
But, if he is outside his jurisdiction and violates the Fourth Amendment, then the chicken dinner is back on the menu. The same rules apply.
So like most issues these days, jurisdiction disputes aren’t as good as we want them to be. But that doesn’t mean all is lost. There are still other issues that might be raised, just not constitutional matters.
You might need an experienced criminal defense attorney.
It’s tempting to look at a map, figure out jurisdictional lines, and try to fight for yourself. But be careful of the pitfalls. This is complicated stuff. The best advice is to get a competent criminal defense attorney to help analyze the issues. If you’re fighting jurisdiction, call Yavitch & Palmer at 614-224-6142 or fill out our online contact form to make an appointment to meet with our experienced team today.