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Cross-Designation & Federal Firearms Laws: What Local Prosecutors Need to Know

NCJ Number
Andrew Wright; Roya Hanna
Date Published
January 2003
31 pages
This document discusses the use of cross-designated prosecutors and the application of Federal firearms laws to cases traditionally only prosecuted at the State or local level.
Cross-designation permits a local prosecutor to act for a time as an uncompensated Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA). The power to appoint a SAUSA rests with the Attorney General. Cross-designated prosecutors typically are drawn from the local prosecutor’s office. That office will continue to pay the salary of the SAUSA. The United States Attorney must approve the appointment. A security background check is performed. The SAUSA is sworn in before the U.S. Attorney or the Administrative Officer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A SAUSA is vested with the powers of an Assistant U.S. Attorney and acts as an agent of the United States. The SAUSA reports to and is accountable to the U.S. Attorney. The length of the appointment is typically 2 years but can be extended. A cross-designated prosecutor benefits from appointment as a SAUSA by being able to appear in Federal court and gain contacts and exposure within the Federal law enforcement community. Cross-designation helps the local chief prosecutor demonstrate a commitment to the Federal/State partnership that is essential to the success of any gun violence reduction program. The cross-designated prosecutor can use his or her knowledge of the local and Federal prosecutor’s offices to make charging decisions that will further the interest of both offices. The U.S. Attorney benefits from the cross-designation by demonstrating a commitment to partnership with local prosecutors. The challenges posed by cross-designation are uncertainty or feelings of isolation from colleagues in the local prosecutor’s office, a distinct learning curve, and a different way of doing business in a new environment. Federal law prohibits firearms with obliterated serial numbers, machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986, semi-automatic weapons manufactured after September 13, 1994, and large capacity ammunition feeding devices manufactured after September 13, 1994. Appendix