Where am I? Jurisdictional Borders in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland

By Cory Bilton

Memorial Bridge 1

If you are the type of person that thinks “jurisdiction” only matters to lawyers and fugitives on the lam, you might be surprised to learn that the moment you cross a jurisdictional line you are subject to a completely different set of laws.  As you are walking across the Key Bridge from Rosslyn to Georgetown, for example, it is “Goodbye, Virginia law.  Hello, DC law.”  This has important consequences because Virginia law and DC law differ in many ways.  By crossing over that bridge you subject yourself to those new laws just by being present in the District of Columbia.

So, jurisdiction matters to everyone in the area.  But where exactly does Virginia end and Washington, DC begin?  The Potomac River, right?  What about the line between DC and Maryland?  It’s those diagonal streets (Southern Avenue, Eastern Avenue, and Western Avenue), right?  Both these answers are close, but not quite right.  The jurisdictional lines between Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland are very specific and do not necessarily match up with common understanding.  Here is what you need to know about jurisdiction in the DC area.

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