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Airports occupy an interesting legal grounds, wherein they are not technically a part of the country they are in (hence tax-free purchases in duty-free), and yet still must obey some set of laws.

By international agreement (though the exact name of the treaty or treaties escape me), any land (or water for that matter) that is not occupied or claimed by some sovereign nation, and is therefore not under the jurisdiction of any sovereign nation — such as space, unclaimed islands and the middle of the Pacific — is under maritime law.

Does maritime law therefore apply to crimes committed in airports? Even more interesting, can someone who commits a crime in an airport physically located within a country he or she is not allowed to be in (no visa for example) be removed from that airport (and therefore allowed into the country) to stand trial?

Update:

After some additional research, it seems international airports, embassies and certain war-risk areas (i.e. the Green Zone in Iraq, also known as the International Zone of Baghdad) contain specified areas defined as international zones. These zones are not so much unclaimed as designated independent of the country they're in largely for purposes of diplomacy. Because of the, ahem, fuzziness of the law governing them, I'd be very much interested in an answer to the question, even if the wording on the question may have been a bit confusing to the first few people to see it.

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    Airports have duty-free shops because countries think it will help them in the world market, not because they are not technically a part of the country. – curiousdannii Nov 6 '16 at 4:17
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    The entire premises of this question are wrong. Answering it as-is would be impossible. – Nij Nov 6 '16 at 5:06
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    An international zone is part of the country in which the airport exists. It's subject to their jurisdiction as much as the ground outside the airport is, whatever diplomatic respect a government may accord to border control procedures. Immigration counts you as having left, but you're very much physically and legally within the home jurisdiction, and it's home jurisdiction authorities that sort things out when somebody does bad or stupid things. – Nij Nov 6 '16 at 19:18
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    That's a fallacious conclusion. A implies B, does not imply not-A implies not-B. The laws apply because the person is within the jurisdiction. Whether they want to be in the jurisdiction is largely irrelevant. – Nij Nov 7 '16 at 1:13
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    @curiousdannii I think this is an example of a Wikipedia article that has lost its focus because of the wiki model. The intro says that the article concerns zones that exist because of treaties; airports are certainly no example of this. Airports, like sea ports before them, simply have areas set aside for passengers and goods that haven't yet cleared immigration or customs, respectively, on the way in, or have already cleared them on the way out. There is no cession of jurisdiction or sovereignty. – phoog Nov 7 '16 at 2:45
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For purposes of criminal law, in practice, airports in the United States are treated as part of the territory of the state (or district or territory) that they are a part of and of the United States. The scope of maritime criminal jurisdiction is defined at 18 USC 7. It states:

The term “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States”, as used in this title, includes:

(1) The high seas, any other waters within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and out of the jurisdiction of any particular State, and any vessel belonging in whole or in part to the United States or any citizen thereof, or to any corporation created by or under the laws of the United States, or of any State, Territory, District, or possession thereof, when such vessel is within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and out of the jurisdiction of any particular State.

(2) Any vessel registered, licensed, or enrolled under the laws of the United States, and being on a voyage upon the waters of any of the Great Lakes, or any of the waters connecting them, or upon the Saint Lawrence River where the same constitutes the International Boundary Line.

(3) Any lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building.

(4) Any island, rock, or key containing deposits of guano, which may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States.

(5) Any aircraft belonging in whole or in part to the United States, or any citizen thereof, or to any corporation created by or under the laws of the United States, or any State, Territory, district, or possession thereof, while such aircraft is in flight over the high seas, or over any other waters within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and out of the jurisdiction of any particular State.

(6) Any vehicle used or designed for flight or navigation in space and on the registry of the United States pursuant to the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, while that vehicle is in flight, which is from the moment when all external doors are closed on Earth following embarkation until the moment when one such door is opened on Earth for disembarkation or in the case of a forced landing, until the competent authorities take over the responsibility for the vehicle and for persons and property aboard.

(7) Any place outside the jurisdiction of any nation with respect to an offense by or against a national of the United States.

(8) To the extent permitted by international law, any foreign vessel during a voyage having a scheduled departure from or arrival in the United States with respect to an offense committed by or against a national of the United States.

(9) With respect to offenses committed by or against a national of the United States as that term is used in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act— (A) the premises of United States diplomatic, consular, military or other United States Government missions or entities in foreign States, including the buildings, parts of buildings, and land appurtenant or ancillary thereto or used for purposes of those missions or entities, irrespective of ownership; and (B) residences in foreign States and the land appurtenant or ancillary thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for purposes of those missions or entities or used by United States personnel assigned to those missions or entities. Nothing in this paragraph shall be deemed to supersede any treaty or international agreement with which this paragraph conflicts. This paragraph does not apply with respect to an offense committed by a person described in section 3261(a) of this title.

Often, law enforcement at an international airport is provided by a county sheriff or municipal police department in addition to the TSA (including air marshalls) which has narrower jurisdiction, in contrast to places like Indian Reservations and federal parks, which while within a state are outside state and local law enforcement jurisdiction (although the assimilative crimes act applies state law in many such circumstances). They are definitely not subject to maritime jurisdiction in the United States.

Duty free status usually arises from a definition particular to tax treaty and not a global sovereignty definition.

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    "are treated as part of the territory of the state (or district or territory) that they are a part of and of the United States": they are treated as part of the state's (etc.) territory because they are part of the state's (etc.) territory. – phoog Nov 7 '16 at 2:26
  • So (6) says that if I'm on a French airplane from Paris to New York, I'm under US jurisdiction when the plane lands and the first door opens, and then on the flight back until the last door closes before take-off? (And if French laws were exactly the same, I'd be under French jurisdiction while on the airplane the rest of the time)? – gnasher729 Nov 8 '16 at 9:24
  • @gnasher729 Yes. – ohwilleke Nov 8 '16 at 17:27
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    @gnasher729: You don't have to wait until then. You're actually under US jurisdiction while in US airspace. – user102008 Nov 9 '16 at 2:01
  • @user102008 but that's not "special maritime and territorial jurisdiction"; that's just plain non-special "present in the territory of" jurisdiction. – phoog Apr 17 '17 at 18:22

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