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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The US Constitution squarely defines the federal government's power, including its authority to pass and enforce laws. The country's founding fathers deliberately established a system of government known as federalism that manages the balance between federal and state authority. While both the federal government and the state governments have the power to formulate criminal laws, their scope is shaped and defined by the principles of federalism.

The federal government gets its authority to create laws through Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution and is empowered in areas such as declaring war, fielding armies, minting currency, managing foreign affairs, and regulating interstate commerce. Criminal law enforced and prosecuted under federal statutes include the acts that fall under the federal government's defined authority in these areas. Examples include treason, counterfeit, felony violations of interstate commerce, and piracy or felonies committed in territorial waters.

Outside of this, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution clearly designates the states as the primary regulatory authority for all other matters within their borders. This means that the authority to enact and enforce most criminal laws is given to the states, along with the policing power to ensure the safety, security, and prosperity of their citizenry. State laws can encompass a wide range of criminal behavior including murder, rape, robbery, theft, burglary, assault, battery, prostitution, drunk driving, littering, disorderly conduct, and disturbing the peace.

Ninety percent of all criminal laws are derived from state rather than federal governments, and these laws often vary from state to state. What is illegal in one state might be fully permissible in another. The sale and use of marijuana is but one example. (Marijuana is also deemed illegal under the federal statue regulating interstate commerce.)

In limited cases, crimes that are typically prosecuted by the state may shift to a federal jurisdiction if the federal government believes it has authority under the Constitution. For instance, murder might be tried in federal court if it involves drug trafficking, an attack on a federal branch of government, an act of terrorism, multiple killings across multiple states, or the high seas.

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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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