Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority

Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority in the United States

Criminal Law in the United States: Lawmaking Authority

Introduction to Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority

The United States has a federal system of government, meaning that power is divided between a central authority and many regional authorities (Federalism). Consequently the power to make law, including criminal law, is divided between the national government and the governments of the 50 states. Local governments also have the authority to enact laws.

The federal government derives its legislative power from the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution gives the federal government authority over certain limited subjects, such as the power to tax, to regulate interstate commerce, to declare war, and to regulate the mail. These powers include an implied authority to define some crimes. For example, the taxation power includes the authority to make it a crime to fail to file an income-tax return or to understate income in a return that is filed. The authority over mail includes the implied power to make it a crime to use the mail to defraud (cheat by deception) or to distribute obscene publications.

The Constitution also explicitly grants power to define criminal behavior. For example, it gives the federal government the authority to punish counterfeiting, treason, and felonies committed on the high seas (such as piracy) and to govern land areas in the United States devoted to federal uses, such as military bases and national parks. The federal government may also protect itself from harm. Thus it has defined as crimes sedition (inciting dissatisfaction with government), bribery of federal officials, and perjury (providing false testimony) in federal courts. In federal territories, the federal government has substantial power over criminal matters, a power similar to that retained by states within their own borders.

The states retain broad power to make law, including criminal law, over matters not delegated by the U.S. Constitution to the federal government or specifically denied to the states. In fact, the states have primary responsibility for defining and enforcing criminal law. The vast majority of all criminal prosecutions take place in state courts under state criminal codes. Each state, within its own territory, has so-called police powers to make and enforce such laws as it deems necessary or appropriate for promoting the public health, safety, morals, or welfare.” (1)

Criminal Law Legal Materials

Tthe U.S. most criminal law is enacted and enforced by the states, so you’ll find most U.S. criminal law in the individual states’ codified statutes (see “State Statutes”).

Federal criminal law resides in the U.S. Code (see “United States Code”), particularly Title 18, which covers Federal Crimes and Criminal Procedure. Title 18 includes theFederal Sentencing Guidelines and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (see Federal Procedure Rules).

Anti-Bribery Laws: Some resources I have found useful: FCPA Blog (“The World’s Biggest Anti-Corruption Compliance Portal”), the FCPA Professor, Anti-Bribery Law in International Business (a Research Guide by the University of Richmond Law Library), the subscription-only articles on Main Justice (known as “Just Anti-Corruption”) andThe FCPA Report (a subscription newsletter with a very helpful topical index).

Police Reports: Vehicle accident reports, as well as some crime and incident reports, are available through PoliceReports.US and other commercial vendors. Police reports may also be available through the relevant department’s web site (e.g., Toledo), or they may be reported in a local newspaper (e.g., the Daily Chronicle). If nothing else, the department’s web site may provide information on how to request a report may be posted on the department’s web site (e.g., Philadelphia). Alternatively, you can order Police Reports through Accurint, and they will send a runner to retrieve copies. Or you can contact the department and request the report yourself.

International Criminal Law: For information and resources, see the International Criminal Law page of the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law,Comparative Criminal Procedure: A Select Bibliography (GlobaLex, 2007) by Lyonette Louis-Jacques and/or the International Criminal Law: A Selective Resource Guide(LLRX, 2000).

Investigations: Corporate Internal Investigations (Law Journal Press) discusses corporate internal investigations in the U.S. For investigations in other countries, seeCorporate Internal Investigations: An International Guide by Lomas and Kramer (Oxford University Press) and Corporate Internal Investigations: Overview of 13 Jurisdictions, published in 2013 by Spehl and Gruetzner (Oxford and Nomi’s Verlagsgesellschaft). There are also many law firm memos on this topic.

Plea Agreements and Non-Prosecution Agreements: Professor Brandon Garrett at the University of Virginia School of Law has compiled and posted databases of Federal Organizational Plea Agreements and Federal Organizational Prosecution Agreements, arranged by company, with links to agreements, docket sheets and press releases. Other resources: (a) search PACER or a secondary vendor for agreements filed with a court, (b) review the DOJ website (note: the DOJ search engine is horrible, better to search Google and add “site:” to your search), (c) search the business news for significant settlements.


Notes and References

See Also

Crime Statistics
Criminal Background Checks
Drugs — Prohibition and Regulation
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
Guns and Other Firearms
International Criminal Court (ICC)
United States Code
United States Department of Justice
United States Sentencing Commission

Guide to Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority

In this Section

In this Section, contents include, among others: Criminal Law, Criminal Law Common Law Origins and Statutory Crimes.

Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority. This part provides references, in relation to Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Criminal Law Lawmaking Authority when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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