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Can a city council legislate how crimes are prosecuted, such as defenses like Jury nullification, or is that the states job?

Burbank, CA |

I recently saw where in New Hampshire the State passed a law allowing jury nullification. Could a similar law be passed on a city, or county level, or is it only up to the state and feds?

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Attorney answers 3


No. It is the California State Legislature's role for California crimes, and the U.S. Congress for federal crimes.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.


If the City operates some form of City Court, I guess it would be possible to issue a procedural rule for that Court, City Courts are very rare and it is even rarer for them to employ juries.

Except in this very rare instance the above answer is correct that Court rules must be set by the State or Federal legislature.


The legal question you are asking is whether State law "preempts" local government from adopting procedures (jury trial, nullification). While it is true that the Federal Government and California have their own criminal codes, local government -- such as Burbank -- can pass in its municipal codes certain laws which establish misdemeanors. For example, in Long Beach, it is a misdemeanor crime to enter a public restroom designated for use by the opposite sex (Long Beach Municipal Code 9.30.025).

I believe, however, criminal procedure -- like the functioning of a jury trial -- is not something that local government can regulate.

An aside -- jury "nullification" is implicit in the jury process. There is a degree of freedom of jurors to return a "not guilty" verdict, as long as they rationally deliberate the process, there is no jury tampering, and there is a reasonable doubt.

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