This is archived content from the U.S. Department of Justice website. The information here may be outdated and links may no longer function. Please contact if you have any questions about the archive site.

671. Great Lakes Jurisdiction

Also included within the "special territorial and maritime jurisdiction of the United States" by 18 U.S.C. § 7(2) are the Great Lakes and their connecting waterways. American nationality of the vessel is a prerequisite to jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 7(2). See United States v. Tanner, 471 F.2d 128, 140 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 949 (1972). Jurisdiction may, however, attach to foreign vessels on the Great Lakes, under 18 U.S.C. § 7(1), unless they are within harbors or waterways in the body of a state. Id. at 141. Federal jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. §  7(2) over American vessels is not affected by the existence of concurrent state jurisdiction. Again, it is usually the policy of the Department to defer to the state when it will undertake prosecution. Jurisdiction follows American vessels into Canadian waters. See S.Rep. No. 2917, 51st Cong., 1st Sess. 1890; see also United States v. Rodgers, 150 U.S. 249 (1893) reaching the same result under the predecessor of 18 U.S.C. § 7(l) in a case involving an offense committed before enactment of the predecessor of 18 U.S.C. §  7(2).

Venue for offenses on the open seas and connecting waters of the Great Lakes will be governed by 18 U.S.C. § 3238 unless committed within the recognized boundaries of a state. See United States v. Peterson, 64 F. Supp. 145 (E.D.Wis. 1894).

[cited in JM 9-20.100]

Updated January 22, 2020