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666

Proof of Territorial Jurisdiction

There has been a trend to treat certain "jurisdictional facts" that do not bear on guilt (mens rea or actus reus) as non-elements of the offense, and therefore as issues for the court rather than the jury, and to require proof by only a preponderance that the offense was committed in the territorial jurisdiction of the court to establish that venue has been properly laid. See United States v. Bowers, 660 F.2d 527, 531 (5th Cir. 1981); Government of Canal Zone v. Burjan, 596 F.2d 690, 694 (5th Cir. 1979); United States v. Black Cloud, 590 F.2d 270 (8th Cir. 1979) (jury question); United States v. Powell, 498 F.2d 890, 891 (9th Cir. 1974). The court in Government of Canal Zone v. Burjan, 596 F.2d at 694-95, applied the preponderance test to determinations of whether or not the offenses took place within the Canal Zone which established not merely proper venue but subject matter jurisdiction as well. Other cases, however, hold that the issue of whether the United States has jurisdiction over the site of a crime is a judicial question, see United States v. Jones, 480 F.2d 1135, 1138 (2d Cir. 1973), but that the issue of whether the act was committed within the borders of the Federal enclave is for the jury and must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. See United States v. Parker, 622 F.2d 298 (8th Cir. 1980); United States v. Jones, 480 F.2d at 1138. The law of your Circuit must be consulted to determine which approach is followed in your district.

The decision in Burjan should be viewed with caution. The analogy between territorial jurisdiction and venue has much to recommend it. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that the two are not of equal importance. As the Burjan court noted, citing Fed. R. Crim. P. 12, subject matter jurisdiction is so important that it cannot be waived and may be noticed at any stage of the proceeding, see Government of the Canal Zone v. Burjan, 596 F.2d at 693, whereas the Ninth Circuit in Powell rested its ruling that venue need be proved by only a preponderance on the relative unimportance of venue as evidenced by its waivability. There is a clear distinction between the question of which court of a sovereign may try an accused for a violation of its laws and whether the sovereign's law has been violated at all.

Proof of territorial jurisdiction may be by direct or circumstantial evidence, and at least at the trial level may be aided by judicial notice. See United States v. Bowers, 660 F.2d at 530-31; Government of Canal Zone v. Burjan, 596 F.2d at 694. Compare Government of Canal Zone v. Burjan, 596 F.2d 690 with United States v. Jones, 480 F.2d 1135, concerning the role judicial notice may play on appeal.

[cited in USAM 9-20.100]