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Copyright (c) 1995 University of California, Hastings College of Law
Hastings Law Journal

The Federalization of Organized Crime: Advantages of Federal Prosecution

April, 1995

46 Hastings L.J. 1095


John C. Jeffries, Jr., * and Honorable John Gleeson **


Debates about the federalization of crime traditionally have focused on substantive law. New federal crimes are proposed and created as responses to problems the states cannot handle. They are opposed and lamented as unwarranted intrusions into the states' domain. 1 Advocates on both sides assume that crime definition is the chief determinant of the respective spheres of state and federal law.

Today, that assumption is largely false. It is true, of course, that federal and state crimes appear to have different coverage. Federal crimes have distinctive jurisdictional components and a characteristic complexity that set them apart from the simpler and broader pronouncements of state law. Considered individually, federal crimes often seem specialized and narrow. Considered collectively, they are not. Even before the recent flurry of situational crime legislation and the passage of the 1994 Crime Bill, federal law reached virtually all robberies, 2 most schemes to defraud, 3 many firearms offenses, 4 all loan sharking, 5 most illegal gambling operations, 6 most briberies, 7 and every drug deal, no matter how small, 8 even the simple possession of user-amounts of controlled substances. 9

Recently, this trend has accelerated. In the past three years, Congress has enacted criminal statutes to deal with a variety of politically high-profile misconduct, including anti-abortion violence, 10 carjacking, 11 failure to pay child support, 12 and even "animal rights terrorism." 13 The 1994 Crime Bill enacted a long list of additional new offenses, including domestic violence, 14 providing material support to terrorists, 15 telemarketing ...
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