So I know that, despite double jeopardy, it's possible to be tried twice for the same crime, by the state and the federal government.

Purely as an act of curiosity I'm wondering how many times one could end up on trial for a single crime due to the distinction of courts, assuming for some reason every court attempted to prosecute. I know that is extremely unlikely, but for the sake of demonstrating a point lets say that everyone who has jurisdiction insists on filling charges.

As I see it if someone from state A shoots someone from state B inside of state C he could be tried by all three states, plus the federal government; for a total of four times.

He could also be sued for damages in civil court, possible in all three states? So as many as 7 times if you count civil court as being 'tried'.

Are there any other situations/ways that could lead to a larger number of trials for any one crime?

  • 2
    FYI, States A and B have no jurisdiction to prosecute the shooting because the shooting did not occur within their respective boundaries.
    – moonman239
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 18:18
  • @moonman239 18 U.S. Code § 1119 makes it a federal crime for a US national to kill a US national outside the US. Are you sure a state can't do something similar?
    – D M
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 18:25
  • @DM perhaps they can, but they don't.
    – phoog
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 18:28
  • What about computer crimes?
    – user4460
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 19:51
  • "someone from state A shoots someone form state B inside of state C" -- across the border from state D... Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 8:18

2 Answers 2


So each government has jurisdiction of the crime if and only if it occurs within their borders. In addition, the Federal Government can take a crack at any crime any where in the United States, though typically they only do so if the crime involves crossing state lines (kidnapping over state lines, ect).

At the maximum, suppose for arguments sake Alice fatally shoots Bob while Bob is standing at dead center of the Four Corners Monument (the only place in the United States where four states meet). This means that one act of Murder has been committed in four seperate states, so Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona can all claim jurisdiction over the case and each prosecute Alice for First Degree Murder. Additionally, the Federal Government may step in and also prosecute Alice for First Degree Murder (though they are more likely not too. The Feds rarely prosecute crimes after the State UNLESS the State did something horribly wrong... I.E. Utah let her go because Utah is crazy). Additionally, the monument marks the dividing line between the Navajo Nation and the Ute Tribe, both semi-autonomous Native American Tribes that have their own recognized court systems, so they could conceivably charge Alice with First Degree Murder.

So in total, the most amount of times someone can be charged for the same crime due to cross-jurisdiction is 7 times (Four States, 2 Tribal Governments, and one Federal Government). In likely hood, a few of these guys will pass because it's a waste of effort. If Alice gets the death penalty in Arizona, Colorado can't kill her a second time. It's important to note that each government gets exactly one trial so Alice can't be convicted twice in Arizona.

A more realistic example occurred in the D.C. Beltway Sniper Case, where the perpetrators were tried in both Virginia and Maryland but only for the crimes committed within those states. VA got first crack because they had (and eventually carried out) the Death Penalty. Maryland tried both for insurance in case the VA cases got thrown out for reasons. The Feds found this satisfying and decided not to press their charges.

  • 1
    It may be interesting to note that the victim (rather than the perpetrator) being at the junction of the states likely impacts which jurisdictions can try which offenses. There's apparently some old precedent saying that the location of the victim decides jurisdiction of the murder charges (though unlawful use of a firearm may be a prosecutable offense, as well, for the jurisdiction(s) in which the gun is discharged). Commented May 18, 2018 at 1:29
  • @zibadawatimmy: Obviously my claim would not play out with all 7 jurisdictions staking a claim for trial. Merely that this would be the most possible jurisdictional convergence in the States.
    – hszmv
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 20:08

As I see it if someone from state A shoots someone form state B inside of state C he could be tried by all three states, plus the federal government. for a total of four times.

States generally don't make it a crime to kill one of their residents outside that state, or make it a crime for one of their residents to kill someone outside of that state. In your scenario, this would be a crime in state C and maybe a federal crime (the federal government would need some justification to get involved; maybe the victim is a federal employee) but not a crime in state A or B.

If you exploded a bomb at a state line, I suppose you could commit murders in multiple states with a single act. However, the murder of Jane in Kentucky and Joe in Tennessee would not really be a "single crime"; that's two crimes (and it would be two crimes even if it didn't cross state lines.)

If you had a convoluted enough conspiracy to commit murder (you hire the best chemist from all 50 states to make the deadliest poison they can, then mix them together and feed it to your victim) it would be possible for you to be charged in all 50 states, plus the federal government. However, this would require that an act to further the conspiracy be performed in each state. So it's arguable whether this counts as a "single crime".

If the person somehow had a restraining order filed against him in all 50 states plus federal court, he could be tried in each state for violating the court orders with a single act. Again, it's arguable whether that counts as a "single crime".

It's worth noting that territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, or Washington DC count as being under federal jurisdiction already - you cannot be tried under DC law and then again under federal law for the same crime. See Grafton v. United States, 206 U.S. 333 (1907). And in Waller v. Florida, 397 U.S. 387 (1970), it was ruled that cities count as political subdivisions of the state, so you cannot be tried by the state and again by a city in the state.

However, in United States v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313 (1978), the Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes can have their own sovereignty, and it is not a violation of double jeopardy to be tried and convicted under tribal law and again under federal law. So, instead of the maximum number of trials in some convoluted scenario being 51 (50 states plus federal), you'd also have to add all tribes that still have sovereignty.

Are there any other situations/ways that could lead to a larger number of trials for any one crime?

Just have the jury keep hanging. I don't think there's any limit to how many times a trial that ends in a hung jury mistrial can be retried.

He could also be sued for damages in civil court, possible in all three states? so as many as 7 times if you count civil court as being 'tried'.

Why are you being sued in 3 states? Are there 3 people who were separately harmed by your actions? If so, there's no requirement that those people need to be from different states - each can file their own action regardless. If you harm a million people, a million people can file a lawsuit against you. But if one person is trying to sue you in 3 different jurisdictions, the courts aren't going to allow that.

  • 1
    In the restraining order scenario, it's likely that it counts as the same crime (Contempt of Court) because all jurisdictions have a seperate court order saying not to do this thing that you did. So if states A, B, and C have the order in place, it's violated in State D (leading to other criminal charges). A, B, and C would have contempt charges to enforce, while D could have contempt plus additional offenses.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 16:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .