Count the Code: Quantifying Federalization of Criminal Statutes
The authors have developed an algorithm to quantify the number of statutes within the U.S. Code that create one or more federal crimes. As of 2019, we found 1,510 statutes that create at least one crime. This represents an increase of nearly 36 percent relative to the 1,111 statutes that created at least one crime in 1994. Although the algorithm cannot precisely count discrete crimes within sections, we estimate the number of crimes contained within the Code as of 2019 at 5,199. These findings support the conclusion that the number of federal crimes has increased, while also bolstering concerns that federal crimes are too diffuse, too numerous, and too vague for the average citizen to know what the law requires.