The Comprehensive Crime Control Act was a comprehensive package of crime measures passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on October 12, 1984. Although many important criminal issues, such as capital punishment and habeas corpus, were kept out of the legislation, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act is recognized as one of the largest and most significant reforms of the U.S. criminal justice system. Support for the legislation varied. Many individuals and organizations embraced numerous provisions of the act, yet opposed many others. Given that the act is such a wide-ranging piece of legislation, lawyers and courts have spent many years sorting out all of its details. The act contains 23 chapters, but it is the first 12 chapters that are most important. The legislation, which was submitted as part of Reagan’s crime control program, had bipartisan support, but it still took great political pressure to finally get it passed.
The most notable provisions of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act include sections on bail conditions, the insanity defense, sentencing, victims of crime, justice assistance, and drugs and narcotics. The act authorized courts to consider dangerousness when setting bail conditions, and also allowed courts to establish pretrial detention if necessary. If there is reason to believe a person will not return to court as required or that releasing someone on bail would put an individual or community at risk, certain bail conditions and pretrial detention are considered acceptable. Concerning the new insanity defense test, if a defendant can prove with convincing evidence that he or she suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time of the crime, it is accepted that the defendant did not understand the wrongfulness of the activity. Intoxication due to alcohol or drugs does not count during an insanity defense test.
Furthermore, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act established a U.S. Sentencing Commission responsible for collecting information and recommending sentencing guidelines to federal judges. With consent from the Senate, the president is responsible for appointing the seven voting members of the commission; in addition, the U.S. Attorney General is a nonvoting member of this group. If courts do not follow the guidelines created by the Sentencing Commission, they must explain why in writing. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act also created a Crime Victims Fund in the U.S. Treasury. Specific criminal fines are paid into this fund and a certain amount is distributed among the states each year. Much of the funds go to crime victim compensation programs and other assistance programs.
Under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention was given an extension to operate, and a missing-children hotline was established. The act also increased many federal penalties for drug and narcotic offenses, while simultaneously reducing some restrictions on compliant manufacturers and distributors of legitimate controlled substances. The act established a National Drug Enforcement Policy Board in the executive branch. This board is controlled by the U.S. Attorney General, who is charged with working with numerous U.S. Cabinet officers who deal with drug enforcement.
The Comprehensive Crime Control Act includes countless other provisions. Some of the more significant ones include the following: clarification of the federal criminal and civil forfeiture laws, improvement in federal statues meant to prevent international money laundering, expansion of emergency wiretapping, strengthening of federal statutes dealing with trademarks, strengthening of the federal labor racketeering law by increasing the maximum period of being disqualified from certain positions from five to 13 years, raising of U.S. attorney salaries, and the creation of federal criminal offenses for misuse and counterfeiting of credit or debit cards.
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