Document Type


Publication Date



International law is the language by which nations assert and attempt to resolve competing legal interests. As with any other language, if the definitions of essential concepts become muddled, it is difficult to communicate. The traditional bases of jurisdiction over extraterritorial crime are essential concepts in the language of international law. The decision to grant or deny extradition, for example, often depends on whether the interested nation recognizes the basis of jurisdiction asserted by another. Confusion over the traditional bases of jurisdiction therefore risks disagreement over and denial of extradition.

United States courts have recently expanded the traditional bases of jurisdiction over extraterritorial crimes. The major impetus behind that expansion is the burgeoning problem of extraterritorial conspiracies to import narcotics into the United States. The courts have sought to discourage prophylactically narcotics importation by asserting jurisdiction over even thwarted conspiracies. Although that judicial approach might have great practical merit, it also creates a conceptual crisis” thwarted extraterritorial narcotics conspiracies come close to fitting within several of the traditional bases of extraterritorial jurisdiction, but they actually fit none. As a result, the courts have tugged and stretched the traditional bases of jurisdiction in order to obtain jurisdiction over the anomalous case of the thwarted extraterritorial narcotics conspiracy. In so doing, however, the courts have muddled the language of international aw and created the risk that extradition in such cases will be denied.

Publication Citation

1984 Utah L. Rev. 685.