Unconstitutional Delegation of Legislative Authority In Arizona

In State v. Williams, 119 Ariz. 595, 583 P.2d 251 (1978), the State appealed the superior court's dismissal of criminal charges against a defendant based in part on the court's holding that the statutory provision at issue provided for an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to define criminal behavior to Congress, various federal agencies, and the Arizona Department of Economic Security ("ADES"). Id. at 597, 583 P.2d at 253. The Arizona Supreme Court, while recognizing "the principle that the Legislature may not completely delegate its law making power to another governmental agency," also noted "the increasing trend in the cases to uphold certain adequately circumscribed delegations of power." Id. at 598, 583 P.2d at 254. The supreme court then recognized that "it is universally held that an incorporation by state statute of rules, regulations, and statutes of federal bodies to be promulgated subsequent to the enactment of the state statute constitutes an unlawful delegation of legislative power" because, "since the Legislature exercises absolutely no control over Congress or its agencies, the adoption as state law of those bodies' prospective enactments is viewed as a complete abdication of legislative power." Id. at 598-99, 583 P.2d at 254-55. The supreme court, however, concluded that the reasoning did not apply to the incorporation of present and future rules and regulations of state agencies, such as ADES, into the state's criminal law. Id. at 599, 583 P.2d at 255. Consequently, the court reversed the superior court's ruling, directing in part that the prosecutor could support the criminal charges with proof of violations of the state agency's regulations promulgated both prior and subsequent to the passage of the criminal statute. Id.