Question of the day

Why are “mail fraud” and “wire fraud” different charges? Why isn’t there just “fraud”, regardless of the medium used for it? Likewise, why is “vehicular homicide” different from plain “homicide” or “manslaughter”? Does the medium used really change the severity or importance of a crime? Aren’t there already degrees of crimes (such as the difference between 1st degree murder and manslaughter)? Why would the medium used change the act that was committed?

3 thoughts on “Question of the day

  1. I don’t know why states would do it, but the Feds need a jurisdictional hook in order to pass a law against certain kinds of things.

    When these laws were being written, a blanket Federal law against fraud would have likely been struck down as Congress exceeding it’s constitutional authority to make laws because a blanket fraud law wouldn’t be within the limited areas Congress can make laws. Because Congress has the constitutional authority to create post offices and regulate mechanisms of commerce between states, it can regulate the use of those things, so the laws must be drafted specifically with those jurisdictional hooks in mind.

    Nowadays this is an anachronism. The general rule is that Congress can pass any law it wants. It looked like that rule was going to change in the mid-90s with the U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison decisions, but that so-called revolution seems to be happening at a glacier’s pace if at all.

  2. Interesting. Thank you; it makes a little more sense now. I guess I could see how wire and mail fraud could fall under regulating interstate commerce, while walking up to my neighbor and offering them a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn might not.

    Maybe it’s partly that me, as Average Citizen, doesn’t really think about the differences between federal and state laws, particularly state laws that are roughly the same in most/many/all states.

    It was my understanding that the constitution was designed to give power to the states instead of the federal government when possible.

  3. It was my understanding that the constitution was designed to give power to the states instead of the federal government when possible.

    Strictly true, but misleading since the addition of the Civil War Amendments. This is one of the reasons originalism tends to annoy me. I prefer strict textualism.

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