Overcriminalization Undermines Respect for Legal System

Post Date: December 12, 2013

Judge and Gavel(Washington Times op-ed) — Despite some of the sharpest political divisions in memory, Congress managed to mount one noteworthy bipartisan effort this year. Since May, the Over-criminalization Task Force, comprising five Republicans and five Democrats from the House Judiciary Committee, has worked diligently to develop recommendations that will address some of the fundamental problems plaguing the federal criminal justice system. The task force has been analyzing worrisome trends such as:

the dramatic expansion of the size and scope of the federal criminal code over the past few decades;

the proclivity of Congress to enact offenses without a mens rea — “guilty mind” — requirement, which leaves people vulnerable to being sent to jail for doing something they had no idea was a crime;

the tendency to pass laws that are so vaguely worded that the limit of their reach is constrained only by the charging prosecutor’s creativity;

and the ever-increasing labyrinth of federal regulatory crimes.

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