American criminal justice is founded on overcriminalization and discretion. Our legislatures have long criminalized much more conduct than can be effectively sanctioned. American police and prosecutors have been granted virtually unreviewable authority (discretion) to allocate investigative and prosecutorial resources. Minor crimes absorb the bulk of our ordinary, local enforcement efforts and there is an endless supply of minor crime, which may be pursued. With minor offenses, discretion is critical at all phases. This article argues that criminal courts, where ninety percent of all cases are heard, could benefit from reform. The author argues for the development of the record so that these offenses are adjudicated on the merits, rather than merely processed.

Included in

Criminal Law Commons