The Number of Federal Crimes

The Number of Federal Crimes: "My 2004 report stated that 'Conservatively speaking, the U.S. Code contains at least 3,500 offenses which carry criminal penalties. More real­istically, the number exceeds 4,000.' The estimate of over 4,000, as of the beginning of 2000, rested on an evaluation of the information already cov­ered by the counts conducted by DOJ and the ABA and new data for the years 1997 through 1999.
Since the start of 2000, Congress has created at least 452 new crimes. So the total number of fed­eral crimes as of the end of 2007 exceeds 4,450. Ninety-one of the 452 were contained in new laws that created 279 new crimes, and the remaining were contained in amendments to existing laws.[22] The total of 452 new crimes breaks down by year as follows: 65 for 2000; 28 for 2001; 82 for 2002; 51 for 2003; 48 for 2004; 13 for 2005; 145 for 2006; 20 for 2007. The Appendix to this report lists all the federal statutes containing new crimes.

The data suggest a potential electoral motivation behind the growth of the federal criminal law. Except for in 2003, the number of new crimes enacted in election years significantly surpass those in non-election years. While this may be due to the two-year cycle in Congress and the time it takes to pass a bill, work done on legislation in a previous Congress need not be completely duplicated. Bills are, for example, frequently re-introduced at the commencement of the a new Congress.

This study did not perform a statistical analysis of the number of crimes created in various discrete areas of substantive law. My 2004 report, however, concluded that a large percentage of the new crimes came in the environmental area. For the years 2000 through 2007, many of the new crimes were in the following areas:"