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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 149408 Find in a Library
Title: Criminalizing the Federal Courts
Journal: Trial  Volume:30  Issue:6  Dated:(June 1994)  Pages:50-52,54-56
Author(s): J R Carrigan; J B Lee
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 6
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Most Federal judges have serious concerns about the number and type of crimes being funneled into Federal courts, and continuation of the current trend toward large- scale federalization of criminal law has the significant potential of changing the character of the Federal judiciary.
Abstract: The issue of federalizing State crime is not a new constitutional law issue, particularly since the 10th amendment reserves powers not delegated to the Federal Government to States. State judges currently handle about 99 percent of all civil and criminal cases filed. Violent street crime has always been dealt with by local prosecutors and tried in State courts. Recent statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice show that Federal prosecutors convict only 5 percent of all felons convicted and imprison only 6 percent of those incarcerated. Because of tough Federal minimum sentencing laws and the curtailment of judicial discretion by sentencing guidelines, State law enforcement officers often refer drug cases to Federal courts. A primary incentive to refer State cases to Federal courts is based on cost savings, particularly the cost of processing and imprisoning defendants. Although the overall number of Federal trials has remained stable at about 20,000 yearly during the past decade, the percentage of criminal trials has increased substantially from 33 to almost 50 percent. Crime is also a prominent topic in the media and political circles due to public perceptions of escalating crime levels. Bills before Congress to reduce crime focus on a Federal death penalty, mandatory minimum sentences, the prosecution of children as adults for listed offenses involving firearms, juvenile possession of a handgun, drive- by shootings, carjacking, and the creation of additional prisons. Both legislative proposals and court decisions reflect increasing concern about crime and the changing nature and future of Federal courts. 51 notes
Main Term(s): Federal courts
Index Term(s): Criminology; Federal legislation; Federal prisoners; State courts
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