Can I be charged with the same crime in 2 different states? (US Law)

by MinickPC on September 17, 2014

Typically, a person is charged with a crime in the state in which they are alleged to have committed the crime. The person then goes through the judicial process in that state to determine whether they are guilty of the crime or not. But what happens when an individual commits a crime that crosses state lines and affects two separate states?

Prosecuting State Crimes

Generally, any state in which an essential part of a crime has been committed is allowed to prosecute an individual on that charge. This is due to the fact that under the Constitution, each state government is considered to be a sovereign government with its own independent criminal laws. These independent criminal laws, along with the sovereign power, produce the right to police and prosecute state crimes. Because of this, the possibility of being charged in multiple states with the same crime is a distinct and not uncommon situation.

Sentencing Conflicts

Although an individual may be charged and convicted of the same crime in two separate states, this creates a sentencing conflict since both states can’t physically imprison or punish the individual at the same time. In this situation, the states must first determine whether to allow the sentences to run concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one after the other). If the sentences run consecutively, typically the two states will determine which state has primary jurisdiction and thus first priority in punishing the individual. After the individual has served the first sentence, the first state will arrange to transfer the individual to the second state to serve the next sentence. If the sentences run concurrently, generally the state with the longer sentence will have primary jurisdiction (priority) over the individual in order to ensure the defendant will actually serve the longer sentence in its entirety.

Dual Charges

To add another wrinkle to this already complicated situation, since the Federal government and individual state governments are considered to be independent sovereign governments, they can both bring criminal charges against an individual when warranted. Although this seems to against an individual’s right against double jeopardy, this is not true since double jeopardy only applies to double charges brought by the same sovereign government, not different sovereign governments. As such, individuals who violate both state and Federal laws may receive double the punishment.

North Carolina based Attorneys specializing in DWI, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Workers Compensation and Family Law

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