Criminal Law Outline - Statutory Interpretation

  1. Methods of Statutory Interpretation
    1. Plain language meaning of the statute
    2. Purpose of the statute taken as a whole
    3. Phrasing (construction with commas)
    4. Ordinary v. technical meaning
    5. Prior law on the subject
    6. Harm or wrong targeted
    7. End to be accomplished
    8. Legislative history/circumstances of adoption of legislation
    9. Prior interpretations of the same or similar statute or the same or similar words/phrasing (common law)


  1. Ex. U.S. v. FosterĀ 
    1. Court attempts to interpret the word "carry" in weapons statute
    2. Does "carry" mean to "pack heat" or to "transport" the weapon, because the weapon was found in the back of the truck.
    3. Methods of interpretation used by Court:
      1. Court looked at where else the word "carry" was used by Congress and where the word "transport" was used.
      2. There was no legislative history.
        • Also Scalia argued that legislative history is not relevant, anyway.
      1. "Possess" in drug offense vs. "carry" in weapons offense. What is the difference?