Enforcing State Law in Congress's Shadow
Mikos, Robert A.
Congress imposes a variety of sanctions on individuals who have been convicted of state crimes. This Article argues that these sanctions may distort the enforcement of state law. By raising the stakes involved in state cases, the federal sanctions may cause defendants to contest state charges more vigorously, thereby producing one of two unintended consequences. First, the sanctions make it more costly to enforce state laws. Second, due to resource constraints or dislike of the federal sanctions, states may attempt to circumvent the sanctions by manipulating charging decisions. In the process, however, states may have to reduce their own sanctions as well, thereby undermining deterrence and the fair application of both state and federal law. The Article theorizes that the severity of the sanctions and the emphasis they place upon state outcomes, among other factors, determine how much the sanctions will distort state proceedings. The Article then substantiates the theory with five in-depth case studies of federal sanctions. It suggests ways to ameliorate the concerns raised herein. It concludes by demonstrating that the analytical framework can be applied more broadly to sanctions imposed and determinations made by any two separate parties.