Federal Criminal Law Doctrines

The Forgotten Influence of National Prohibition

Federal Criminal Law Doctrines

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: Published: November 1994

History > U.S. History, Law > Legal History

This book offers a close look at the development of legal thought during the era of prohibition and documents the impact of prohibition on law as an intellectual discipline. Kenneth M. Murchison examines changes in federal criminal law doctrines from 1918 to 1933 in light of recent historical scholarship on prohibition and its impact on American society. He identifies these federal doctrinal developments as an important but ignored legacy of prohibition and describes how these changes continue to effect contemporary law.
In this detailed examination, Murchison considers a portion of the Supreme Court’s work prior to the New Deal crisis, a period insufficiently considered until now. Among the developments he discusses are those relating to the defense of entrapment, the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure, the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against double jeopardy, property forfeitures, and the jury trial guarantees for criminal proceedings. His analysis reveals a court less rigid, less consistently divided along modern ideological lines, and more tolerant of governmental authority than traditional wisdom would suggest. Thus, Murchison offers a framework for a revisionist view of the Supreme Court’s activities during this period.
Exploring an important connection between the Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, and the development of federal criminal law, this book documents what was arguably the nation’s first criminal law revolution at the federal level. Explaining the modern origins of doctrines that still inform federal criminal law, Murchison also provides a case study of how legal doctrine responds to changing social conditions. Federal Criminal Law Doctrines will add immeasurably to the work of historians and legal scholars alike.


“Murchison has done an excellent job of examining a welter of cases with sensitivity and an eye for placing them in context.” — David J. Langum, American Historical Review

"This is the first comprehensive history of Supreme Court prohibition ‘law.’ Murchison highlights the relation between the Court’s decisions and the changing attitudes of Americans towards prohibition. His attempts to show both the importance of prohibition to the development of federal criminal law and its legacy today are most successful. In addition to legal historians, and legal academics, the book should be important for scholars of criminal justice and public policy studies." — Rayman L. Solomon, Northwestern University School of Law


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kenneth M. Murchison is J. Denson Smith Professor at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center of Louisiana State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top

1. The Prohibition Backdrop

2. Entrapment: The Emergence of a Legal Doctrine

3. The Fourth Amendment, 1920-1929: A Doctrinal Explosion

4. The Fourth Amendment, 1930-1933: Refinement and Rediscovery

5. Double Jeopardy: Crystallization of an Enduring Exception

6. Property Forfeitures: Interpreting the Language of the Volstead Act

7. Jury Trials: Primacy of Institutional Concerns

8. The Prohibition Era and the Development of Federal Criminal Law


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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1510-0
Publicity material