Tag Archives: mens rea

Heritage Report: Retribution and Overcriminalization

Originally published at The Heritage Foundation by Gerard V. Bradley | 3/1/12
Abstract: From the ever-expanding number of federal criminal laws to prison sentences that are too numerous or too long, there are many promising bases for criticizing overcriminalization. One such basis, however, has yet to be fully considered: the fact that too many criminal offenses today are malum prohibitumoffenses—that is, they criminalize conduct that is morally innocuous—and do not contain an adequate mens rea (criminal-intent) element. Continue Reading

Prison Terms for Not Installing ADA Ramps?

Originally published at Cato Institute by Walter Olson | February 9, 2012
We’ve often deplored the continued push of criminal prosecution into matters that were once considered more suitable for regulation or for the operation of civil law. A little‐​noted report a few weeks back in the Los Angeles Times may indicate the next milestone in overcriminalization: Continue Reading

In Jail for Backed-Up Toilets

Originally Published at National Review by Shannen W. Coffin December 12 2011
The Wall Street Journal has a powerful illustration today (subscription required) of the problem of overcriminalization of federal law and the related problem of strict liability crimes. It tells the story of Lawrence Lewis, a maintenance engineer at a military retirement home in D.C., who pled guilty to misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations — all for discharging a backed-up sewer line into a city storm drain to prevent flooding in an area on the property where, according to the story, the sickest residents lived. Continue Reading

Gibson Guitar Raid: Much to Fret About

Originally published at National Review by Pat Nolan
Federal prosecutors are proving themselves too highly strung. With military precision, the federal officers surrounded the building, donned flak jackets and helmets, readied their weapons, burst in, and forced terrified employees out at gunpoint. Officers ransacked the facil Continue Reading

The Legal Consequences of Saving a Baby Woodpecker

Originally published at Cato Institute by Walter Olson | August 2, 2011
Federal law makes it illegal to “take,” “possess,” or “transport” a migratory bird except under permit. If you worry that this sweeping language might give the federal government too much enforcement power, perhaps you are one of those horrid House Republicans who, according to Bryan Walsh in Time magazine, are in the grip of “antigreen ideology” and want to “essentially prevent” agencies like the Department of the Interior “from doing their jobs.” Who else would object to laws meant to protect Nature? Continue Reading

Maybe You’re a Criminal and You Don’t Know It

Originally published at Cato Institute by Tim Lynch | December 9, 2009
Yesterday, Michael Dreeben, the attorney representing the U.S. government, tried to defend the controversial “honest services” statute from a constitutional challenge in front of the Supreme Court. When Dreeben informed the Court that the feds have essentially criminalized any ethical lapse in the workplace, Justice Breyer exclaimed, Continue Reading

Burning Bushes

Originally published at National Review by Paul Rosenzwieg and Trent England | 12/8/03
Palo Alto means “tall tree” in Spanish, but Kay Leibrand knows that tall trees can be a crime in the California city. Leibrand, a 61-year old grandmother, breast-cancer survivor, and former software engineer, was arrested and nearly went to jail because her hedge of xylosma bushes was more than two-feet tall. Continue Reading