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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 72950 Find in a Library
Title: Scope of the Federal Role in Criminal Law Enforcement
Author(s): B R Civiletti
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 11
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The Attorney General of the United States, Benjamin R. Civiletti, discusses the extent and limitations of Federal jurisdiction in the enforcement of criminal law.
Abstract: While Congress has historically maintained a narrow view of Federal jurisdiction over criminal law, this jurisdiction has gradually extended to suit the country's changing needs. Today, crimes having some effect or making some use of interstate commerce, extortion perpetrated through the power of elective office, frauds by elected officials and anti-racketeering provisions form part of the federal criminal code. Yet there are strong reasons for exercising the federal government's powers narrowly: (1) the separation between federal and local criminal justice systems as created by the Constitution, (2) respect for local government's ability to make their own criminal justice decisions, (3) the justifiable fear of a federal police force, (4) the federal government's emphasis on few, specialized criminal cases, and (5) the prevention of undue overlap and confusion. As a general rule in areas of concurrent jurisdiction, the Federal government should prosecute only those cases which cause the greatest harm to the greatest number of people and which are peculiarly difficult for State and local governments to prosecute. Federal intervention is justified in cases involving organized crime, drug offenses, white-collar crime, and public corruption; bank robbery cases often do not require such intervention. Because of the policy of channeling Federal resources into more complex and far-reaching types of crimes, the total number of criminal cases handled by the Federal government dropped by nearly 20 percent between 1976 and 1978, although the number of cases actually prosecuted increased. It is argued that this policy of limited exercise of federal jurisdiction is the most cost-effective and comprehensive type of law enforcement.
Index Term(s): Attorney General; Criminal codes; Federal Code; Federal law violations; Jurisdiction; Law enforcement
Note: Remarks given to the North Carolina State Bar Association in Raleigh, North Carolina, Friday, October 17, 1980.
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