General Questions concerning Federal crimes.

I’ve just got a few factual, General Questions regarding Federal crimes:

  1. Is bank robbery a federal crime?

  2. Can local police officers respond to bank robberies, even (if) they are federal crimes?

  3. Was there a special law passed to allow local law enforcement to respond to bank robberies, if those bank robberies are federal crimes? Who passed that law? The locals or the feds?

I think first that it might be wise to dispell a misprision in common American speech – there is nothing particularly drastic about a Federal crime per se – it simply means a crime punishable by the U.S. national district courts as opposed to the state courts, one made criminal by a law passed by Congress instead of the state legislature. To be a Federal crime, it must be an offense that is regulatable under the powers of Congress as set forth in the Constitution. But that does give a fairly broad range of potential criminal acts.

Technically, speeding on a military base is a Federal crime – it’s a violation of the law on territory reserved to the Federal government. Your ticket is issued by the M.P.s and you appear before a U.S. magistrate if you want to contest it.

Bank robbery is a Federal crime because banks are regulated by Federal laws, bringing them under Federal ambit, and because bank robbers often don’t stop state lines in departing the scene of the crime. It’s also a crime in every state as well, and can be prosecuted by, and the laws enforced by, both state and federal officials.

Certainly local officials can respond to Federal crimes committed within their jurisdiction – their oaths, after all, are to enforce the law, which includes both Federal and State law. There may be covenants between law enforcement agencies or special circumstances where a given police unit is supposed to work only with specific laws – we all are aware of peace officers (as opposed to police officers) with particular ambits, such as conservation officers, park police, capital police, etc.

Yeah, there is a law that permits local officials to enforce federal laws – it is called the U.S. Constitution – specifically Article VI. Probably there are enabling acts passed under it to spell out the particulars, but that’s their authority – it, and the laws passed under and in accordance with it, are the supreme law of the land.

Polycarp, I have a great deal of respect for you, but you didn’t really answer the question.

Is bank robbery a federal crime? Can local police respond to bank robberies? If so, what entity gives them that power, federal or state?

Please give cites.

Actually, Polycarp did answer your questions, Moonlight.

Polycarp wrote,

If you need a citation, see 18 U.S.C. § 2113.

Polycarp wrote,

Polycarp wrote,

If you need a cite to article VI, the relevant provision – known as the Supremacy Clause – says that

A state or local law-enforcement officer can arrest a suspect for violating a Federal law on the Supremacy Clause’s authority, as Polycarp explained. And as Polycarp suggested, there are other enabling laws as well, including a federal statute – 18 U.S.C. § 3041 – that spells out the authority of state and local magistrates to provide for the arrest and commitment of any offender suspected of a Federal crime:

State and local police generally operate under the authority of a “mayor of a city, justice of the peace, or other magistrate” as the statute provides, and are therefore empowered to bring offenders before those magistrates under the statute. Most states also have legislation that confers similar jurisdiction over state and local law enforcement.

Maybe I can add a bit:

  1. Is bank robbery a federal crime?

Yes, per US Code Title 18, PART I, CHAPTER 103, Sec. 2113 US Code

  1. Can local police respond to bank robberies?

As mentioned, bank robbery is a state crime in every state, so certainly local police are explicitly empowered to respond.

  1. What entity gives them that power, federal or state?

Police are allowed to respond to a bank robbery as a state crime, but the issue of local and state law enforcement agencies enforcing federal law has been a subject of some debate (particularly in regards to illegal immigration). Most recently, in U.S. v. Vasquez-Alvarez, the 10th Circuit reaffirmed the principal that that state and local law enforcement officers are empowered to arrest for violations of federal law, as long as such arrest is authorized by state law.

Well, now we have a disagreement:
flurb writes:

Polycarp writes:

I see no disagreement between the two quoted statements. They are simply worded differently, with emphasis on different points.

Beat me to it! :smack: I understand the statute, but I’m not sure I understand how the Supremacy Clause gives local law enforcement the power to enforce federal law. The Supremacy Clause clearly gives Congress the power to preempt contrary state laws, and binds state judges to favor federal law over state law when they conflict in a matter before them, but doesn’t seem to have anything to say about the actual enforcement of federal law.

I don’t understand the the basis for the question in this case. I would imagine that a bank robbery violates the state law in every state- unless there is a state that explicitly excludes banks from whichever statute would apply to a drug store robbery.

The question of whether local law enforcement can enforce federal laws is an interesting one, but it seems to me that it would only come up if a crime violated federal law, but not state law. I know that in my experience, when local police arrest someone for a crime that violates both, the person is initially charged with state crimes, and if the Feds decide to take over, the person is moved from a local jail to a federal facility.

Forgive me – this gets slightly philosophical, but is founded in factual stuff that can come back and bite one if he/she is not aware of it.

The law is unary. It is one monumental edifice, that, like Jesus’s Father’s promised House, has “many mansions” within it. It includes everything from the first Common Law rulings back in the 1200s to the precedent set by the J.P. with an odd traffic case last night, from the U.S. Constitution to the Corvallis, OR zoning ordinance.

When a policeman or a judge, or a lawyer being admitted to the Bar, swears to uphold “the law,” he is not speaking of particularly the body of statutes, but to that unified structure of the mind that incorporates all elements of legal actions and decisions.

And most emphatically, it means that any law, to be enforced, must be constitutional – because the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Subject to it alone, the state constitutions are supreme within their states provided that they don’t contradict it.

There is a presumption of constitutionality given to any Federal or State statute – not a certainty but a basis on which to shape disputes. In a court setting, it places the burden of proof on the person claiming the statute is unconstitutional. But the more practical and useful thing for our purposes is that it keeps cops and traffic judges from having to be constitutional lawyers in everything they do – only if something is egregiously offensive to the constitution will they be expected to react to it as unconstitutional.

But it is also in that unary state and in that presumption that the issue addressed here comes up – the police are sworn to uphold the law, to defend and protect people who might otherwise be victimized under a violation of it. And that “the law” is not the local Penal Code, but that unary metaphysical mansion called “The Law” – the whole thing as it applies to the daily life of Pottsville. And that includes the constitution and the federal laws.

In practice, of course, he’s not expected to know the entire contents of the United States Code – or for that matter the complete bookshelf of state statutes – but to handle situations which violate the law as he may come upon them in his daily rounds or in responding to complaints, alarms, and such.