Kalamazoo, MI asked in Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Federal Crimes and Civil Rights for Michigan

Q: Where does Congress get its constitutional authority to pass federal criminal and civil laws? Congress has the enumerate

authority to pass criminal laws when crimes happen on federal territory, on the high seas, relating to piracy, and in the military. Most say Congress can make criminal and civil laws using Clause 3 of Article I Section 8 of the Constitution (regulating interstate commerce), but isn't the clause supposed to mean Congress can make laws regulating economics and businesses that cross state lines or multistate businesses and regulating foreign economics with the US? Shouldn't Congress' federal criminal and civil lawmaking authority come from Clause 9 (creating courts inferior to the Supreme Court) and make courts upholding criminal and civil laws passed by Congress? Would this give Congress a broad range of making criminal and civil laws? Should the necessary and proper Clause be used with Clause 9 when Congress passes criminal and civil laws? Should the interstate commerce Clause, creating courts Clause, and the necessary and proper Clause all be used when Congress creates those laws?

1 Lawyer Answer
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Good questions. Federal crimes are connected to interstate commerce. Commonly, federal criminal cases involve multiple defendants in multiple states. Guns used in crime came from somewhere, and usually not from the state where the crime occurred. For example, a gun may have been stolen from someone in Illinois or Indiana, and used in a crime in Michigan. Drugs often come from one state to another. Here in Michigan, I-94 is pretty much a thoroughfare of drugs coming to and from Chicago, Detroit, Canada, and various other points throughout Michigan, with participants in all those locations.

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