Federal Criminal Law in New York, USA

Introduction

The quality of American justice is influenced by four chief factors like the personnel, administration, substantive law, and the procedures followed. The United States federal legislation defines what federal crime is. Federal criminal laws depend on what is defined as a crime by the federal criminal code. Federal crimes are under the jurisdiction of federal courts where the activities of a defendant go against federal criminal law. The crimes in question are usually those that cross state lines or those in international waters under the jurisdiction of the United States. Federal crimes can occur on the property of the federal government, such as post offices, the airport, or a federal government building.

Federal criminal law is a preserve of Congress action and the delegation of power to bodies such as the Supreme Court. The primacy of Federal law is based on Article VI, which contains the Supremacy Clause. Federal criminal law and state criminal law complement each other. However, in places where the federal and state laws conflict with each other, the federal law is given primacy. Congress relies on its powers to enact regulations that define activities in interstate commerce, act on its implied powers, and act on several criminal prohibitions. Federal action is responsible for numerous drug laws that overlap those of states. Therefore, drug-related cases end up in federal courts.

Selection of Federal Court Judges

Federal Article III Judges

These types of courts are known to be of the general trial kind and can handle any federal case. These types of courts are the trial courts, the appellant courts, and the Supreme Court. The President makes the nomination for those to sit in the courts as judges, and then Congress confirms these nominations. They have the potential to serve for life once in office.

Federal Article I Judges

These judges belong to courts that are created courtesy of Congress to administer the laws written by Congress. The type of courts here are bankruptcy courts, tax courts, and certain military courts. Congress makes the appointment of judges to serve for ten years, after which they are eligible for reappointment.

Federal Authority in the Definition of Crimes

Various state legislative bodies adopted the common law that addresses crimes but the United States Congress never adopted the common law. As a result of this, the responsibility of the national governments in criminal law justice has been significantly limited compared to that of the states. State legislatures have the power of the police to enforce laws as a broad authority in ensuring that there is order, safety, welfare, and decency. Congress has the authority to make laws that define federal crimes and the procedures to undertake. The laws relating to the military, immigration, mail, civil rights and naturalization of citizens.

Congress has used its federal discretion to criminalize interstate crimes by regulating interstate commerce. The offenses that have been criminalized are carjacking, kidnapping, loan sharing, wire fraud, and several environmental crimes. These crimes are settled in federal courts. The criminal code used by the United States Federal government is contained in Title 18 of the United States Code in 1948. Also, Federal criminal law is dependent on case law or precedent set by the Supreme Court through its majority rulings.

 

Federal Jurisdiction and Crimes

A majority of crimes in the United States fall under the ambit of state criminal codes. Some crimes cross both federal and state criminal codes. The Constitution of the United States does not give the federal government the power to have a general police service. Also, there is no federal criminal, common law. This means that federal crimes are counted as statutory crimes whose depth and breadth Congress determines. Enacting federal criminal law calls on the United States Congress to act based on the powers it has through the Constitution. Congress is called upon to enact criminal laws for places where states do not have jurisdiction.

The Principal and the Accomplice

Title 18 of the United States Code provides that a principal is an individual that commits an offense against the United States. If this individual does not commit the crime, he or she acts as an aid, abets the one who does, counsels, commands, pronounces the commission of the crime, or induces another to commit the crime. An accomplice, on the other hand, will be punished as a principal because of willfully causing another to act in a manner that if he or she had would constitute an offense against the United States. The code provides that the accomplice be punished in the same way as the principal.

The principle through which the accomplice gets convicted is known as accomplice liability. It is a general principle adopted under a criminal law that provides that an individual involved in assisting another to commit a crime to be convicted. The common law provided that for the accomplice to be convicted, the principal had to be convicted first. It was almost impossible to convict the accomplice without first convicting the principal in the crime — the scope of 18 U.S.C. § 2(b) was expanded by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case of United States v. Ruffin. In this case, Ruffin was found to be liable for a crime in which he could not violate a substantive statute. His guilt in committing the crime was because he caused another to act criminally; the perpetrator was acquitted and could commit the crime.

The Discretion of Courts in Federal Criminal Law

The Supreme Court is a federal body with the ability to exercise the highest discretion in criminal matters. One good example where this discretion was exercised is the Case of Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court upheld that it was unconstitutional to impose the death penalty if the perpetrator of the crime was under the age of 18 when the crime was committed. This overruled previous decisions to have such a sentence take effect in the case of perpetrators who were either 16 years or above in the Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989) case. The prohibition that the Eighth Amendment places on punishments that are cruel and unusual is that such punishments must be interpreted based on their history, the issue that takes precedence, and the functionality of the punished while evaluating its purpose. The form of punishment must also be evaluated based on its role in the framework of the constitution.

Discretion of the court is the choice by a judge in a matter based on the consideration of all factors involved as opposed to basing decisions on a predefined legal guideline. One aiding factor is that of the separation of powers between the three arms of government, which are the judiciary, the executive, and the legislature. The judiciary has all the power to interpret the laws based on its discretion. Discretion can be aided through individuality. Individuality means that the exercise of discretion is done on an individual basis. Several factors influence the individuality of decisions made by judges before they get to decisions that they think are close to the best. These factors include personal experiences, past life, etcetera. The other aid to discretion is lack of a judicial precedent on a matter that gives the judge and the jury a lot of reasoning to do in line with the law provided by the constitution. The doctrine of stare decisis does not hold in such a case. These factors have been successful for instances in cases such as the United States vs. Alvarez. This case was concerned with the establishment of the Doctrine of separation of powers.

The Discretion of Prosecutors

Prosecutors possess the capability to determine the people worth subjecting to criminal prosecutions through the Justice Department. Courts can review the exercise of discretion from time to time in rare instances when they are protecting the rights of a defendant. Two general guidelines guide the department. The guidelines are set to criminally prosecute individuals and supplement principles devoted to the prosecution of business organizations.

Prosecutorial decisions are made through a series of decisions. The first in the series is the decision to start, decline, or defer prosecutions. Prosecutors assess their cases and determine whether they can mount a strong case against a defendant (s). Prosecutors do not start prosecutions until they are sure that they have probable cause to tie an individual to the commission of a Federal crime. Prosecutors initiate prosecutions when they believe that the evidence they have in their possession can help them secure a conviction. Therefore, the determination to prosecute depends on the weight of federal interests, the sufficiency of alternatives, and the possibility of effective prosecution in another place.

Role of the Jury

The 6th Amendment to the Constitution has guaranteed the right for an individual to go through a trial in the presence of a jury in criminal cases. The Voir dire process is the one used by judges and lawyers in the selection of a jury. The process of selection includes the asking of questions to determine if there is some level of competency or suitability to serve as a juror. Any error when selecting a jury provides grounds upon which an appeal can be done in a criminal case. The personal situation can potentially lead to bias in the actual sense or implied sense, either due to past experiences or any form of relationship with either of the members in the key party. It presents an excuse for a cause that can be pushed by either the defense or the prosecution.

The voir dire method of jury selection is sufficient because all parties participate in the selection process, which is quite fair. In any case, if one of the parties takes note of any reason to challenge for cause, he or she can raise it and the issue is addressed. It provides an opportunity for all potential bias against the individuals involved to be eliminated because everyone and especially the defense and the prosecution can be able to propose the removal of those who seem to be against them if they have an adequate challenge for cause. These challenges are, however, limited.

Examples of Crimes Handled Under Federal Criminal Courts

Courts only have jurisdiction over cases whose alleged perpetration is within the location of that court’s authority. However, crimes such as cyber-crime across multiple state lines and even countries. The issues that crop up in cybercrime are the location of the crime perpetrator, the location of the victim, and the location of the place where the crime took place. These aspects raise questions of jurisdiction. Legal differences between states or countries heighten the jurisdiction barrier. Some countries can have extradition arrangements, in which case criminals are turned over to a requesting country though it is a process that is long and expensive. Inter-jurisdictional task forces can be formed to handle crimes that go beyond borders concerned. Countries can adopt consistent laws to curb crime. When states work together, they can be able to handle the problem of cyber-crime effectively.

In conclusion, federal crimes are under the preserve of activities in federal courts when the activities of a defendant go against federal criminal law. The courts operate through codes formulated by the Congress of the United States. Crimes that cut across various states are handled in federal criminal courts. The Supreme Court maintains discretion to overturn laws or policies that it deems to go against the application of the law.

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