NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Edwin Meese Makes A Case Against Federalizing Crime

February 22, 1999

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III elaborates on some of the dangers of federalizing almost every criminal activity. Meese headed an American Bar Association panel which conducted a two- year review of the explosive growth of federal criminal law.

He cites some of the negatives of that process:

  • An unwise allocation of scarce resources needed to meet the genuine issues of crime.
  • An unhealthy concentration of policing power at the national level.
  • An adverse effect on the federal judicial system.
  • Inappropriately disparate results for similarly situated defendants -- depending on whether essentially similar conduct is selected for federal or state prosecution.

He adds that congressional attention is being diverted from criminal activity that only federal investigation and prosecution can address. Then there is the potential for duplicative prosecutions at the state and federal levels for the same course of conduct -- which violates the spirit of the Constitution's double-jeopardy protection.

In his view, perhaps the most compelling reasons to oppose federalization of crime "are that it contradicts constitutional principles, undermines the state-federal fabric and disrupts the important balance between the federal and state systems of justice."

Source: Edwin Meese III, "The Dangerous Federalization of Crime," Wall Street Journal, February 22, 1999.


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