Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Crime Control Legislation

March 16, 1983

To the Congress of the United States:

I am transmitting to the Congress today a legislative proposal entitled, the ``Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1983.''

As you know, my Administration has made major efforts to fight crime in America. Soon after taking office, I directed the Attorney General and other Federal law enforcement officials to improve the efficiency and coordination of Federal law enforcement, with special emphasis on violent and drug-related crime. This has been accomplished largely through the work of the Cabinet Council on Legal Policy, chaired by the Attorney General, as well as through leadership provided by the White House Office on Drug Abuse Policy. As a result of these efforts, Federal law enforcement is better coordinated than ever before.

Of even greater importance, this Administration is attacking crime at its source by providing increased resources to Federal law enforcement agencies for apprehension, conviction, and incarceration. Last October, for example, I announced a national strategy to cripple organized crime and put drug traffickers out of business. We established twelve interagency task forces in key areas of the country -- modeled in part on the Task Force that has been operating very successfully in South Florida -- to work with State and local law enforcement officials to shut down organized criminal enterprises. We established a National Center for State and Local Law Enforcement Training to assist and train State and local officials in combatting syndicated crime. We also have taken many other actions, including use of the FBI in drug cases, to bring the full resources of the United States Government to bear on the critical problem of crime.

Our efforts are beginning to bear fruit. During 1982, for example, Federal cocaine seizures totalled nearly 12,500 pounds -- nearly three times the amount seized in 1981. Heroin seizures almost doubled, and seizures of marijuana increased by 50 percent. I have every reason to believe that these and other administrative actions will continue to increase arrests and convictions of persons who violate Federal law.

But administrative action, however successful, is not enough. If the forces of law are to regain the upper hand over the forces of crime, ensuring that criminals are convicted and put and kept behind bars, basic legislative changes are needed.

During the 97th Congress, the Senate passed S. 2572, the Violent Crime and Drug Enforcement Improvements Act. Among its principal provisions, this legislation would have made major and urgently needed changes in our laws concerning bail, criminal forfeiture, and sentencing. It is unfortunate that S. 2572 was not enacted during the last Congress, but I look forward to working with the 98th Congress to secure, at long last, passage of critically needed substantive criminal law reform.

The legislative proposal that I am transmitting today provides a thorough and comprehensive reform of those aspects of Federal criminal law that have proven to be the largest obstacles in our fight against crime. Many of our proposals were considered by the 97th Congress. Others are new. Each is important in rolling back the tide of criminal activity that threatens our Nation, our families and our way of life.

Our proposal is summarized in some detail in the materials accompanying this message. I do, however, want to highlight six especially critical reforms:

  • Bail. Our bill would make it much more difficult for a defendant likely to be a threat to his community to be released on bail pending trial.

  • Sentencing. The bill would change the sentencing system to ensure that sentences would be determinate and consistent throughout the Federal system, with no parole possible.

  • Exclusionary rule. Under our proposal, evidence in a criminal case that may have been improperly seized, which is now excluded from evidence, would be admissible upon a showing that the officer making the seizure acted in reasonable good faith.

  • Criminal forfeitures. Our bill would strengthen the ability of Federal prosecutors to confiscate the assets and profits of criminal enterprises.

  • Insanity defense. The bill would replace the current Federal insanity defense with a narrower defense applicable only to a person who is unable to appreciate the nature or wrongfulness of his acts.

  • Narcotics enforcement. Our proposal would substantially increase the penalties for trafficking in drugs and would strengthen the regulatory authority of the Drug Enforcement Administration with respect to the diversion of legitimate drugs into illegal channels.

The bill contains many other important provisions, as well, concerning labor racketeering, capital punishment, consumer product tampering, and extradition, to name only a few. These proposals, taken together, will provide Federal law enforcement officials with important new tools with which to combat crime and will help once again to make our streets safe for all our citizens.

We must not allow further delay in protecting the rights, safety, and quality of life of all Americans. We must act now. Accordingly, I urge prompt consideration and passage of these legislative proposals.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

March 16, 1983.