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A common feature on that old Dukes of Hazzard show was the idea that once them good old Duke boys crossed the county line, they'd be safe from the mean old sheriff and his deputy.

Under what circumstances, if any, would that actually work?

Answers focusing on 1970s America are welcome, but so are insights into other times and places.

  • I doubt it, police are allowed to continue chasing somebody across county lines, at least until that county's police (or State police) can continue the pursuit or the state police get involved. I don't know about 1970's though... – Ron Beyer Nov 9 '18 at 15:21
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It would not work.

There is apparently a common misconception in Georgia that this would be the case, based on Article IX, Section II, Paragraph III (b)(1) of the Georgia constitution, which says:

No county may exercise any of the powers listed in subparagraph (a) of this Paragraph [including police protection] or provide any service listed therein inside the boundaries of any municipality or any other county except by contract with the municipality or county affected.

What many people miss is the clause right before that: "Unless otherwise provided by law." Georgia courts have held that the law does provide otherwise when pursuing someone for a traffic offense:

The plaintiff contends that when the collision occurred, the policeman-deputy sheriff had no authority to be pursuing the Mitchell car because he was outside the county in which he had a power of arrest. While ordinarily a peace officer has power of arrest only in the territory of the governmental unit by which he was appointed, there are two exceptions to the rule present in this case. Code Ann. s 92A-509, which deals with arrests for traffic offenses, provides by implication that certain officers (including deputy sheriffs) have arrest powers for these offenses outside their appointed territories.

City of Winterville v. Strickland, 127 Ga. App. 716, 718, 194 S.E.2d 623, 625 (1972).

What that case decided in 1972, the principle was in place well before the boys began their hijinks.

I don't know of any state where the law is different, though the answer would be different if the boys crossed into another state.

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    The TV show was set in Georgia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dukes_of_Hazzard – BlueDogRanch Nov 9 '18 at 16:08
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    Ah. The misspelling suddenly makes a lot more sense. – bdb484 Nov 9 '18 at 16:10
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    As I recall, one of the sherrif's favourite lines was "We're in HOT PURSUIT!", which presumably referred to this rule. – Paul Johnson Nov 9 '18 at 16:35
  • Updated with Georgia-specific law. – bdb484 Nov 9 '18 at 16:42
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It could be possible that crossing a county line in Georgia (the location of the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard - Wikipedia) during the time frame (the 1970's) would let someone like the boys and Daisy escape the sheriff, depending on the local laws and the nature of and severity of the crime, i.e. doing a burnout in the General Lee or merely stealing a pack of gum from the store. But generally speaking, law enforcement can pursue people across county and state lines, with or without the help of the neighboring law enforcement, and so not pursuing across a county line could be some form of fictional sheriff's department discretion.

Mostly, the idea of escaping to the next county until things cool off is really just a TV Trope or plot device. See The Dukes of Hazzard (Series) - TV Tropes. The "county line" trope eludes to the lyrics of the theme song itself, the story line that the boys are on probation, the redneck anti-authority "The South Will Rise Again" culture of the South, and all kinds of fringe Constitutional arguments about law enforcement regarding the county sheriff being the supreme law of the land (Constitutional Sheriffs) that have in the last few years become more mainstream.

The bottom line? It's just a TV show. And it's not a good idea to try this at home, kids.

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