Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Criminal Laws are Congress Authorized to Make?

1. The Constitution grants to Congress only limited powers to make criminal laws. These powers fall into five categories: a) those made pursuant to express authorizations for four specific crimes; b) those made under the "necessary and proper" clause; c) those made for the few tiny geographical areas over which Congress has "exclusive Legislation"; d) those governing the military; and e) those made pursuant to two of the Amendments to the Constitution.  Let's look at each category:

a) Art. I, § 8 grants to Congress authority to define & punish counterfeitingpiracies and felonies committed on the high seas, & offenses against "the Laws of Nations"[1] Article III, §3 grants to Congress a restricted power to declare the punishment of Treason.
b) Art. I, §8, last clause, grants to Congress the power "to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution …all …Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States…".  This necessary and proper clause allows Congress to make criminal laws when necessary to enforce powers vested by the Constitution in the federal government.   This worried people, so Madison & Hamilton explained it:

In Federalist No. 44, Madison said, regarding the peoples' fears of usurpations by Congress:

No comments:

Post a Comment