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Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Over White Collar Crimes

Many people believe that criminal acts that occur outside of the US. are not subject to prosecution in court. However, the reality is that it is possible to be prosecuted for offenses conducted in another country, so if you are being investigated for an international offense, it is critical to speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help protect your interests.

When do Federal Courts Have Jurisdiction?

Whether U.S. law applies to criminal actions that occurred outside of the country depends on a series of factors, including:

  • Whether Congress expressly stated that a specific law applied outside of the U.S.; or
  • Whether the law in question prohibits a crime against the U.S. government.

Unless a statute falls under one of these categories, a federal court will not be able to extend jurisdiction to a foreign country.

Federal Jurisdiction and Overseas Crimes

Congress has explicitly given courts extraterritorial jurisdiction when it comes to violations of specific crimes. Maritime laws, for example, fall under this category, as do statutes criminalizing offenses that take place in airplanes or in federal buildings located in foreign countries. Federal courts are also given extraterritorial jurisdiction over cases that involve illicit sexual conduct of a minor, including the sale of sexual materials that depict minors.

While these jurisdictional grants are explicitly stated in the statutes themselves, Congress also implicitly provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction. As a result, the following types of crimes are often charged in federal court even when they occurred in another country:

  • Conspiracy, if the accused was living abroad, but conspired to commit a crime in the U.S.;
  • Attempt to commit a crime, if the person charged is a foreign national, but tries to commit a crime in the U.S.;
  • Theft, if the property involved belonged to the federal government, but was overseas when it was taken;
  • Counterfeiting American money overseas;
  • Forging U.S. federal documents overseas;
  • Money laundering; and
  • Facilitating a domestic criminal enterprise by killing a foreign national while abroad.

Being prosecuted in federal court can have serious consequences, as they are almost always aggressively investigated and prosecuted. Furthermore, judges are usually required to abide by minimum sentencing guidelines, resulting in much longer prison sentences than those faced by defendants in state court. Because there is so much at stake for individuals who have been accused of violating a federal white collar crime law, it is critical that those who have been charged with this offense speak with an attorney as soon as possible about their legal options.

Call Today to Discuss Your Case with an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney

Many defendants who are charged with white collar crimes are not even aware that their actions were unlawful. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always protect defendants from prosecution, so if you are being investigated for a white collar crime in Miami, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at (305) 670-9919 and we’ll get started on evaluating your case. All of our initial consultations are complimentary.


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