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Struggle for Effective Anti-Crime Legislation: An Analysis of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994

NCJ Number
University of Dayton Law Review Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Dated: (Winter 1995) Pages: 561-565
B McCollum
Date Published
5 pages
This article reviews the legislative history of omnibus crime legislation during the Bush and Clinton administrations, with attention to the forging of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
Congress passed four omnibus Federal crime bills from 1984 to 1990. Although these bills added dozens of new crimes, penalties, and procedures to the U.S. Code, sharp differences between conservatives and liberals remained unresolved on the most important criminal justice issues; several legislative battles between 1989 and 1994 revealed the true policy split among policymakers at the Federal level in relation to crime control. Two unresolved issues were habeas corpus and exclusionary rule reform proposals. A crime bill died in the Senate in 1992 after several attempts to overcome a threatened Republican filibuster; for the first time in a decade, Congress failed to pass an omnibus crime bill. The 1992 conference report was the starting point for the 1994 Crime Bill under the Clinton administration. After much debate the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was signed into law on September 13, 1994. Supporters of the bill asserted that the legislation was both tough and smart. It authorized billions of dollars for police, crime prevention, and prisons, and it contained a ban on so- called "assault weapons," a Federal "three-strikes-and-you're- out" provision, and dozens of death penalty offenses. Conservatives charged, however, that the bill failed to address the central reason for soaring crime rates, i.e., a broken criminal justice system that often fails to hold criminals accountable and protect the public from violent criminals. With the current Republican control of the Congress, obstruction of criminal justice reform appears ended. It is almost certain that President Clinton will be given an opportunity to sign crime legislation that contains habeas corpus reform provisions and stronger "truth-in-sentencing" provisions in 1995.