Criminal Law.

Federal criminal jurisdiction based on the com- merce power, and frequently combined with the postal power, has historically been an auxiliary criminal jurisdiction. That is, Congress has made federal crimes of acts that constitute state crimes on the basis of some contact, however tangential, with a matter subject to congressional regulation even though the federal interest in the acts may be minimal.952 Examples of this type of federal criminal statute abound, including the Mann Act designed to outlaw interstate white slavery,953 the Dyer Act punishing interstate transportation of stolen automobiles,954 and the Lindbergh Law punishing interstate transportation of kidnapped persons.955 But, just as in other areas, Congress has passed beyond a proscription of the use of interstate facilities in the commission of a crime, it has in the criminal law area expanded the scope of its jurisdiction. Typical of this expansion is a statute making it a federal offense to “in any way or degree obstruct . . . delay . . . or affect . . . commerce . . . by robbery or extortion . . . .”956 Nonetheless, “Congress cannot punish felonies generally” and may enact only those criminal laws that are connected to one of its constitutionally enumerated powers, such as the commerce power.957 As a consequence, “most federal offenses include . . . a jurisdictional” element that ties the underlying offense to one of Congress’s constitutional powers.958

The most far-reaching measure the Court has sustained is the “loan-sharking” prohibition of the Consumer Credit Protection Act.959 The title affirmatively finds that extortionate credit transactions affect interstate commerce because loan sharks are in a class largely controlled by organized crime with a substantially adverse effect on interstate commerce. Upholding the statute, the Court found that though individual loan-sharking activities may be intrastate in nature, still it is within Congress’s power to determine that it was within a class the activities of which did affect interstate commerce, thus affording Congress power to regulate the entire class.960

Footnotes

952
E.g., Barrett v. United States, 423 U.S. 212 (1976); Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977); Lewis v. United States, 445 U.S. 55 (1980); McElroy v. United States, 455 U.S. 642 (1982). [Back to text]
953
18 U.S.C. § 2421. [Back to text]
954
18 U.S.C. § 2312. [Back to text]
955
18 U.S.C. § 1201. [Back to text]
956
18 U.S.C. § 1951. See also 18 U.S.C. § 1952. [Back to text]
957
See Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 428 (1821). [Back to text]
958
See Luna Torres v. Lynch, 578 U.S. ___, No. 14–1096, slip op. at 4. [Back to text]
959
Title II, 82 Stat. 159 (1968), 18 U.S.C. §§ 891et seq. [Back to text]
960
Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971). Taylor v. United States, 579 U.S. ___, No. 14–6166, slip op. at 3 (2016); Russell v. United States, 471 U.S. 858, 862 (1985). [Back to text]