Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13
The Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13, makes state law
applicable to conduct occurring on lands reserved or acquired by the Federal
government as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 7(3), when the act or omission
made punishable by an enactment of Congress.|
Prosecutions instituted under this statute are not to enforce the
of the state, but to enforce Federal law, the details of which, instead of
recited, are adopted by reference. In addition to minor violations, the
has been invoked to cover a number of serious criminal offenses defined by
law such as burglary and embezzlement. However, the Assimilative Crimes Act
cannot be used to override other Federal policies as expressed by acts of
Congress or by valid administrative orders.
The prospective incorporation of state law was upheld in United
States v. Sharpnack, 355 U.S. 286 (1957). State law is assimilated only
no "enactment of Congress" covers the conduct. The application of this rule
not always easy. In Williams v. United States, 327 U.S. 711, 717
prosecution of a sex offense under a state statute with a higher age of
was held impermissible, but a conviction for a shooting with intent to kill
defined by state law was upheld, despite the similarity of provisions of 18
U.S.C. § 113. Fields v. United States, 438 F.2d 205 (2d Cir.),
cert. denied, 403 U.S. 907 (1971); but see Hockenberry v.
States, 422 F.2d 171 (9th Cir. 1970). See also United States
Bowers, 660 F.2d 527 (5th Cir. 1981) (child abuse); United States v.
Smith, 574 F.2d 988 (9th Cir. 1978)(sodomy). There seems to be a
trend to construe 18 U.S.C. § 13 liberally to provide complete coverage
criminal conduct within an enclave, even where the offense is generally
by Federal law. See, e.g., United States v. Johnson,
F.2d 1431 (10th Cir. 1992)(aggravated assault); United States v.
Griffith, 864 F.2d 421 (6th Cir. 1988)(reckless assault); United
v. Kaufman, 862 F.2d 236 (9th Cir. 1988)(assault); Fesler v. United
States, 781 F.2d 384 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1118
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (U.C.M.J.), 10 U.S.C. §
et seq., because of its unlimited applicability, is not
an "enactment of Congress" within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 13.
United States v. Walker, 552 F.2d 566 (4th Cir. 1977), cert.
denied, 434 U.S. 848 (1977)(drunk driving). See also Franklin
United States, 216 U.S. 559 (1910). Military personnel committing acts
an enclave subject to Federal jurisdiction which are not made an offense by
Federal statutes other than the U.C.M.J. may therefore be prosecuted in
court for violations of state law assimilated by 18 U.S.C. § 13, even
they are also subject to court martial. However, dual prosecution, it
noted, is constitutionally precluded by the Double Jeopardy Clause.
Grafton v. United States, 206 U.S. 333 (1907).
Section 13 of Title 18 does not assimilate penal provisions of
regulatory schemes. See United States v. Marcyes, 557 F.2d
(9th Cir. 1977). Nor does it incorporate state administrative penalties,
as suspension of drivers licenses. See United States v. Rowe,
F.2d 1319 (4th Cir. 1979); United States v. Best, 573 F.2d 1095 (9th
1978). Section 13(b) allows suspension of licenses within the enclave.
Federal agency regulations, violations of which are made criminal
statute, have been held to preclude assimilation of state law. See
United States v. Adams, 502 F. Supp. 21 (S.D.Fla. 1980)(carrying
weapon in federal courthouse); United States v. Woods, 450 F. Supp.
(D.Md. 1978)(drunken driving on parkway). In Adams, 502 F. Supp. 21,
defendant was charged with carrying a concealed weapon in a United States
Courthouse in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 13 and the pertinent Florida
firearms statute. In dismissing the indictment, the Adams court concluded
a General Services Administration (GSA) petty offense weapons regulation (41
C.F.R. § 101-20.313), explicitly provided for by statute, 40 U.S.C.
318a, amounted to an enactment of Congress within the meaning of 18 U.S.C.
13 and, therefore, the defendant could not be prosecuted by the assimilation
state law which prohibited the same precise act.
It is important to note, however, that a critical provision of the
regulations apparently was not considered in Adams. See 41
§ 101-20.315 which provides in part:
Nothing in these rules and regulations shall be construed to
any other Federal laws or regulations or any State and local laws and
applicable to any area in which the property is situated.
This non-abrogation provision arguably would permit the
of appropriate state firearms laws or other state statutes notwithstanding
existence of the GSA regulations. It appears that this language has never
considered in any reported case. Moreover, no discussion of the meaning of
language appears in the pertinent parts of the Federal Register, 43 Fed.Reg.
29001, July 5, 1978; 41 Fed.Reg. 13378, March 30, 1976. We believe it would
reasonable to interpret this non-abrogation provision as permitting the
government, in its discretion, to proceed under 18 U.S.C. § 13 and
appropriate state firearms laws, rather than under the GSA weapons
[cited in USAM 9-20.100; USAM 9-20.115]