Describe the role of the U.S. Constitution with regards to the formation of criminal laws by the individual states and by the federal government?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It seems like there are a couple of elements in the question.  The first one is the issue of federalism in the Constitution.  As one of the seven principles by which the goals of the Constitution can be fully recognized, federalism is the belief that state government autonomy is a concept that is fully recognized and embraced by the federal government.  Federalism indicates that there is a relationship between state and the national government.  While this is understood, the belief of the Constitution being the "supreme law of the land" is another pillar upon which the Constitution stands.  The Supremacy Clause argues this and ensures that all states in the nation understand it.  The formation of laws on the state level is something that can be done so long that it does not take away from the Constitution's supremacy.  A state is able to form laws that it sees fit so long as this formation does not detract or take away from the Constitution's supremacy.  In this light, the role of the Constitution is to enhance and encourage state autonomy, but to ensure that the states understand that no law can be formed if it challenges the supremacy and validity of the Constitution.

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