Who Gets What, Where and How? State and Federal Criminal Criminal Prosecution and the Impact of Federalization of Crime Control

Lisa L. Miller, The Pennsylvania State University

In the past decade, legal scholars have explored the trend towards federalization of crime control. The focus is typically on Congessional jurisdiction, federalism, the historical development of federal crime policy and anecdotal perspectives of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys on the state-federal nexus. However, very little systematic research has been done by socio-legal studies scholars interested in understanding the impact of the growing federal role in crime control on state and local prosecution and law enforcement. Federal prosecutors prosecute only a fraction of the cases over which they currently have jurisdiction. Furthermore, there is significant inter-district variation in relationships between U.S. Attorneys offices, local prosecutors and local law enforcement and those variations result in different types of prosecutions and sentencing outcomes. This paper is the preliminary piece of a larger project pursuing the following questions: how and why are defendants prosecuted in state or federal court? What is the impact of the growing federal role on local law enforcement policy? This paper explores the existing literature on federalization, identifies key questions for research and presents some preliminary findings from interviews with U.S. District Attorneys and local prosecutors on the nexus between federal and local crime fighting efforts.

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Updated 05/20/2006