The United States is unique in that we are a nation composed of fifty individual states. These states have their own identities, governments, laws, agencies, and officials. As a result of the way we do things, the Federal government does not have the right to impose on the rights of each individual state. There are some things that fall to a Federal level, sure. But, when it comes to other things— states have final say. Just as there are certain things on Federal level, and others on states that don’t intermix— states cannot impose on other states either. In short, we have a system built on honoring each state’s right to make their own decisions. This extends to police jurisdiction as well. But, do these rules ever bend? And when, if ever, do police have the right to extend outside of their direct area?

State Jurisdiction: Do the Rules Ever Bend?

Police from one state cannot simply enter another state, and begin making arrests on their behalf. However, there are some rare instances when police may do this. But, it doesn’t happen all that often, and has to be a joint decision. Those joint decisions are called ‘inter-jurisdictional agreements’.

Inter-Jurisdictional Agreements Between States

The term might seem confusing, but it’s really just a big word for agreeing to allow one officer from another state, to enter another and make an arrest. These agreements work in two ways. First, one state permits the entry of out-of-state officers for certain situations. Then, another state allows their officer to enter into another state in order to make arrests. These agreements exist between two states or a group of states.

Agreements Between Cities and Counties

Furthermore, this doesn’t just apply to states. These agreements may also exist between cities and counties. If cities are particularly close together, or county lines fall in a certain way, these agreements allow officers to work outside of their direct area.

For example, let’s say you leave Folly beach and drive over the bridge into Charleston. However, a Folley beach officer arrests you for DUI as you exit the bridge into Charleston. Generally, the officer does not have the right to make an arrest outside of their jurisdiction. However, that does not mean the arrest is ALWAYS impermissible. If Charleston and Folly Beach have an agreement, the officer may be exercising his or her rights properly. However, they might not be.

So, if you find yourself in a scenario where you feel the officer might have been operating outside of his rights, it’s important to speak with an attorney. These agreements are tricky, and sometimes, they might be the difference between receiving a charge— and not receiving a charge.