If a woman assaults another passenger while on a plane flying over the continental United States, which courts have jurisdiction to prosecute a criminal case against her?

(This question comes up in various iterations on a regular basis on Law.SE and so I ask and answer the question based upon a recent court decision that is on point.)

1 Answer 1


Woman slaps fellow passenger on flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, is convicted of assault in California.

Ninth Circuit (panel): Wrong venue. She can only be prosecuted in the district over which the assault occurred.

Ninth Circuit (en banc, over a dissent): Nonsense. Not only would that make it practically difficult to prosecute, the Framers couldn't possibly have intended the Venue and Vicinage Clauses to include the airspace over a state or district (had they foreseen metal tubes carrying people while hurtling through the sky at 600 miles per hour). Venue is proper where the plane lands and any state it traveled through; conviction affirmed.

From here.

  • I think both were extremes, if a venue, through investigation, can actually be identified by reasonable efforts, one court (or any party) should be able to request another to assume venue based on that information, and always allow venue in the departure state.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 0:33

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