Hastings Law Journal


Sara Sun Beale


Congress has responded to increasing public concern about violent crime by expanding the scope of the federal government's criminal authority. The 1994 Crime Bill continued this expansion by adding many new offenses and significantly broadening existing ones, resulting in a total of more than 3,000 federal crimes.

In her Article, Professor Beale argues that there are both too many federal criminal prosecutions and too few: too many, as measured by the present and future capacity of the federal courts and by the proper balance of the federal and state governments in handling criminal matters; and too few, because federal authorities typically have the resources to prosecute only a fraction of the offenses prosecuted by the states, creating unequal sentencing for similarly situated offenders.

Professor Beale proposes principles to ameliorate the inconsistencies inherent in the current situation. She suggests a "disaggregation of the concept of federal criminal jurisdiction" to separate when federal judicial resources should be employed from when federal regulation may be warranted. She also proposes a modification of the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in order to avoid unjustified sentencing disparities. Professor Beale concludes by suggesting thatprosecution of crimes in the federal courts should only occur when the unique resources of the federal judicial system-not federal resources, in general-are necessary.

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