I thought if you committed a crime in a certain state you were tried in that state. Maybe in a state court, maybe in a Federal court. Do I have this right?

Recently, there is talk about prosecuting Donald Trump in Georgia. It is my belief that he cannot be prosecuted in Georgia because he never went to Georgia. What am I missing?

  • presence in a state is absolutely not required to be charged with a crime there. – Tiger Guy Mar 11 at 7:32

If a person A, speaking by telephone to an election official B in Georgia, attempts to influence that official to improperly alter an election result in a way that would constitute frauds or otherwise be a violation of Georgia law, then the person A has committed a crime in Georgia. There are various ways to commit a crime in a place without being physically present in that state.

Since there is no question what was said on the telephone call in question (because it was recorded) the question to be determined would seem to be whether it constituted a crime under Georgia law, and whether the Georgia officials think it is worth prosecuting.

It is true that a trial for a criminal accusation is normally held in the state where the crime was committed (or allegedly committed). But that need not be in a state where the person was ever physically present. If a person living in State C does business is state D, and is requires to file a tax return with the authorities in D, and it is alleged that the return was false, then the person is being accused of a crime in D, committed when the false return was received in D.


Any sovereign which is an essential part of the crime can prosecute

  • DJT was in Washington DC - the USA (through the power delegated to Washington DC) can prosecute.
  • The AG was in Georgia - Georgia can prosecute.
  • The crime crossed state boundaries - the USA (directly) can prosecute.

Also, double jeopardy does not apply to separate sovereigns so Georgia and either DC or the USA can prosecute. Generally, if one prosecutes, the others consider that justice has been served on the matter and it's not in the public interest to prosecute, but they can decide otherwise (Heath v. Alabama, 474 U.S. 82 (1985)).

  • DC is not a sovereign. – phoog Feb 12 at 1:08
  • @phoog at least not a separate one from the USA. – Trish Feb 12 at 1:11
  • There’s a reason DC license plates say “Taxation without representation.” – candied_orange Feb 12 at 2:43
  • @Trish DC is not a sovereign, just as London is not a sovereign. – phoog Feb 12 at 3:19
  • Generally,the Feds will not prosecute if the State does, but they have a policy on when they might step in and prosecute. States are not bound by this and can and will prosecute for crimes that other states already prosecuted. The DC Beltway Snipers were prosecuted in Maryland despit the elder of the two having been convicted and sentanced to death for the crime (D.C. didn't prosecute because the only intersections with the route are in MD and VA. The only portion of the beltway actually in D.C. is the 0.11 mile span of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.). – hszmv Feb 12 at 12:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.