The Territorial Principle and Admiralty Jurisdiction

Ships of a sovereign are considered to be part of the sovereign’s territory while they are on the high seas.  As such admiralty jurisdiction as it relates to criminal law is really a species of territorially based jurisdiction.  The term “high seas” is a technical term that for purposes of criminal jurisdiction at least is defined to include seas as well as waters that are tributary to them to the extent those waters are navigable.  As a result a crime committed on a ship of one sovereign while it is in the territorial waters of a second sovereign is within the jurisdiction of the first.  Depending upon the laws of the second sovereign, that sovereign may have concurrent jurisdiction over the crime.

United States v. Flores, 289 U.S. 137 (1933)

1. What does the court say about the admiralty jurisdiction of a sovereign when crimes are committed on one of the sovereign’s own vessels on the high seas?

2. What does the court say about admiralty jurisdiction of a sovereign when crimes are committed on one of sovereign’s own vessel while on a navigable river within the territory of another sovereign?  Does it make any difference if the ship is within tidal or non-tidal waters or if the water is salt or fresh?

3. Can the sovereign within whose waters the ship of another sovereign is located exercise jurisdiction over a crime committed on that ship?

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Crim Juris 17