Jurisdiction Boundary Marking Act

This proposed federal act has not yet been introduced. Readers are urged to support doing so.


The Constitution, in Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 17 prescribes that the U.S. Congress shall have exclusive legislative jurisdiction only over parcels of territory ceded to them by an act of a state legislature. An inventory of such parcels was taken and reported in a 1956 report entitled Jurisdiction over Federal Areas within the States. Many federal statutes, including most criminal statutes, apply only within the boundaries of such parcels, which are sometimes referred to as "federal enclaves", but few such enclaves have their boundaries marked to give persons due notice of the jurisdiction into which they are entering. This creates an issue of whether such jurisdiction may be legitimately exercised, in the absence of such notice. The proposed act would remedy this deficiency.

Proposed provisions

  • Within 180 days of the enactment of this act, each official with administrative authority over any federal enclave established under Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 17 shall mark the boundaries of such enclave with appropriate markers, and with signs which identify the boundary, showing which side is under federal jurisdiction, and which under state jurisdiction, and warning a person crossing the boundary of which jurisdiction he is entering.
  • If such enclave is not marked as prescribed above within 180 days of enactment, or if, having been thus marked, the markings are removed, or not adequately maintained for more than 90 days, federal jurisdiction will terminate and revert to the state from which it was ceded.
  • The boundary of such enclave shall not be marked unless and until the responsible official has:
    1. Determined that the federal government has clear title to the property, as evidenced by a recorded deed, specifying the metes and bounds of the property.
    2. Determined that an official, certified copy of the act of the state legislature that consented to the purchase or ownership of the property, and ceded jurisdiction thereto, has been filed with the U.S. Department of State, and that such act specifically defined the property ceded by a metes and bounds description.
    3. Determined that a declaration of acceptance of jurisdiction by the U.S. federal government has been duly issued, signed by the President or the Secretary of State, conveyed to the ceding state legislature or state official designated by state law, and filed with the Secretary of State.
    4. Identified the boundary markers of a survey of the property, or had the property re-surveyed if they cannot be found.
  • The appropriate markers shall depend on the nature of the terrain, but may include:
    1. A painted stripe or engraved line.
    2. A fence or wall.
    3. A natural obstacle, such as a river or cliff face.
    4. Any other boundary marker in common use to clearly identify property lines.
  • The signs shall be placed so that anyone entering the enclave along any route will be able to see one under normal daytime lighting conditions.


  • The markers and signs would provide the duly required notice of jurisdiction to persons, without which they cannot be justly prosecuted, and which would help clarify which courts and statutes would have jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases.
  • The markers and signs would duly inform state and federal officials of the boundaries of their respective jurisdictions.
  • The markers and signs would stimulate the public to become better informed about the differences between federal and state jurisdiction and enable them to make better decisions about their conduct within each.
  • The requirement would operate to remove legal ambiguities and impairments to federal and state jurisdictions, and thereby avoid illegitimate official actions and reduce litigation over such ambiguities and impairments.
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Original URL: http://www.constitution.org/pol/us/jbma.htm | Text Version | RTF Version
Maintained: Jon Roland of the Constitution Society
Original date: 1997 July 22 — Updated: 2003 February 11