Nov 20, 2020 in Law

Federal vs. State Policy Comparison

Federal vs. State Policy Comparison



The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the U.S., which creates the Federal System of government (Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, 2013). In the Federal system of government, power is distributed between the state governments and the Federal government. Due to Federalism, each state and the Federal government has its own court system, as well as the criminal justice policies. Federalism is a government structure created by the United States Constitution to share powers between the national (Federal) and state governments. The United States constitution gives certain powers to the national government and reserves the rest for the states (Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, 2013). In other words, the United States government has two systems: state and Federal. While each designed and implemented for various purposes, none is completely independent from the other. The two entities often interact and share the goal of developing policies that handle legal issues fairly.

The Federal justice system deals with legal issues or policies implicitly founded on the U.S. Constitution (Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), 2000). On the other hand, state policies deal with their respective state constitution and the legal issues that the U.S. Constitution did not give to the national government (Marion & Oliver, 2006). The objective of this paper is to outline the Federal and state criminal justice policies across the United States. Addressed in the paper are the similarities and differences of policy development and implementation by both state and Federal governments.

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Federal vs. State Policy Comparison

State policies are where the rubber meets the road in reference to the criminal justice policies. Sometimes the criminal justice system runs smoothly, but conflicts between the state and the Federal policies can lead to hurdles in the implementation of the formulated policies. Even though most of the criminal justice policies are formulated by the Federal government, most of these policies rely on the state law enforcement agencies to implement them. The state-based policies can support the Federal policies, but they can be the fountain of conflict, especially when the Federal justice directives are not well coordinated or funded (Stolz, 2002). An entity such as the National Institute of Correction integrates the impact of the state policies on the Federal criminal justice policies to ensure that the Criminal Justice System is flawless in terms of policy implementation. Within most states of the USA, drug laws, policies and regulation mimic those of the national government. The variation is observed in terms of the degree of punishment (Stolz, 2002).

The policies of the national government are based in Washington, D.C and apply to all people who live within the boundaries of the United States, whereas the state-based criminal justice policies in each of the fifty states apply to residents of those states (Marion & Oliver, 2006). Subject to Federalism, the Constitution of the United States is the supreme source of authority for both state and Federal governments. The Federal government has authority, with full sovereignty over external legal policies. The Federal government has a judicial authority to develop and implement policies that can resolve controversies between its states or between the citizens of different states (FCNL, 2000). Federal law enforcement officials are normally tasked with the development and implementation of the Federal policies. However, due to the fact that some Federal laws and policies supersede the state or local policies, the jurisdiction of local or state policies are sometimes given to the Federal officials. By using the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, the Federal government is legally allowed to enforce Federal policies regardless of the existing state statues. For example, the Federal policy on drugs allows the Federal law enforcement officials to carry out investigations across the states irrespective of the current state statutes. A Federal agent is legally allowed to carry out investigation and make an arrest in states where the use of cannabis is legal on medical grounds. This is an example of the supremacy of the Federal policies. Though the Federal criminal justice policy generally prohibits the use of drugs such as Cannabis, it is legalized for medical use in some states like California. These incongruities in criminal justice policies between the state and the Federal government have lead local authorities to devise their own ways of addressing criminal justice issues (Stolz, 2002). This observation is an indication of the critical role the state-based policies plays in the implementation of the criminal justice policies.

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In the United States, both state and Federal governments have the authority to develop and implement policies (Marion & Oliver, 2006). However, each state and the Federal government have their own criminal statues, policies, and law enforcement agencies. Whether a particular policy will be implemented by state or by Federal government depends on numerous complex factors. As a result of both law and practice, the policies most frequently implemented by the Federal government are formulated around organized crimes, large scale frauds, trafficking offences and legal issues, in which there is a special Federal interest (Stolz, 2002). These include frauds against the United States and crimes against Federal officials. In addition, there are certain legal issues that only the Federal policies may cover. These include matters pertaining to espionage, treason, Federal tax and customs offenses. On the other hand, state policies cover legal issues such as pertaining to crimes against an individual, such as assaults and murders. They also cover matters pertaining to crimes against property such as thefts and properties. Indeed, state criminal justice policies cover a far greater number of legal issues than the Federal policies do (Stolz, 2002). Although the states have a wider influence to formulate and implement policies pertaining to criminal justice, they can only do so in matters within their boundaries. However, the authority of the Federal government and policies extends throughout the United States. Therefore, the Federal government is better equipped and able to implement sophisticated and large-scale policies. Although there are differences in policy implementation procedures among the states and between Federal government and the states, certain core principles of the United States Constitution apply equally to Federal and all state policy development and implementation (Marion & Oliver, 2006). For instance, democracy is highly practiced in matters pertaining to policy formulation and implementation.

In some areas of criminal justice policy, the Federal and state government may have overlapping or parallel needs or interest. Under such circumstances, policies may be implemented simultaneously by both Federal and state governments (Stolz, 2002). Central among these concurrent policies is the implementation of tax policies. In areas where the constitution is silent pertaining to the Federal policies and authority, states may implement their policies provide they do not conflict with legal policies and authority of the Federal government. One of the critical aspects that affect citizens is a crime and punishment on which the Constitution fails to assign direct responsibility. Therefore, people within states reserve these powers. In the same way, state-based policies are formulated and implemented through various states constitution. States are pillars of democracy and through this, innovative policies like educational reform and criminal justice have emerged from state governments. Before the Federal government acted on slavery, it was abolished by a number of states. In this sense, state policies act as judicial reformers, testing new concepts and helping to come up with acceptable policy compromises between the Federal and state governments.

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There are differences existing in the state and Federal policies with regard to legal issues such as drugs and the related legislation. Most of the differences emerge from the desire of the national government to have control over certain aspects of the law. In the same light, state policies developed and implemented to curb crime and legal issues within the state judicial system are at odds with Federal policies in various cases. Policy differences can result in confusion and as has been discussed, can result in conflicts within the law enforcement and the criminal justice system. In summary, irrespective of the direction the United Stated Federal criminal justice policy makers decide to undertake, it is imperative to examine the criminal justice system, which largely operates at the state and local levels. This is subject to the fact that peoples lives are affected by the criminal justice policies involved as they multiply annually.


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