Tag Archives: proliferation of criminal law

Overcriminalization Undermines Respect for Legal System

Originally published at The Heritage Foundation by John G. Malcolm and Norman L. Reimer | 12/11/13
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. Continue Reading

Heritage Report: Fighting Back Against Over-Criminalization: The Elements of a Mistake of Law Defense

Originally published at The Heritage Foundation by Paul J. Larkin, Jr. | 6/12/13
A myriad of problems are caused today by overcriminalization—the misuse and overuse of criminal law, which ensnares average citizens for committing acts that are not morally blameworthy and that most people would not know are crimes. Punishing someone who is morally blameless is unjust and engenders disrespect for our legal system. Continue Reading

Heritage Report: The Need for the Mistake of Law Defense as a Response to Overcriminalization

Originally published at The Heritage Foundation by Paul J. Larkin Jr. | 4/11/13
By heavily regulating criminal procedure alone but leaving the definition of crimes and offenses almost entirely in the hands of the political process, the Supreme Court has left open only one option to legislators seeking to address the problem of crime: Make more and more conduct criminal. Continue Reading

Meese Makes Case Against Overcriminalization at Seton Hall Law

Originally published at The Daily Signal by Joseph Luppino-Esposito | 4/17/12
Imagine the police knocking on your door because you mistakenly forgot to fill out an obscure form required by foreign law before opening up a small business. Imagine your 80-year-old mother being arrested for failing to place the appropriate sticker on an otherwise properly shipped package. Imagine your cancer-stricken neighbor being criminally charged for failing to trim the shrubbery in front of their house. Or imagine your child being prosecuted for eating a French fry in a public place. Continue Reading

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

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

Doing Violence to the Law: The Over-Federalization of Crime

Originally published at The Heritage Foundation by Brian W. Walsh | 6/9/2011
The rapid expansion of federal criminal law, beyond almost all prudential and constitutional limits, may not be the first thing to leap to mind when one thinks of key problems with American criminal law. But the existence now of over 4,450 federal criminal offenses is itself a problem that implicates the foundations of the criminal law. Continue Reading

Heritage Report: Overcriminalization and the Constitution

Originally published at The Heritage Foundation by Brian W. Walsh | 4/13/11
Abstract: Although the Constitution’s great structural principles of federalism and separation of powers are designed to guard against the abuse of governmental power and secure individual liberty, Congress routinely flouts these constitutional safeguards by enacting vague, overly broad, and other improper and unconstitutional criminal laws. Thomas Jefferson warned that “concentrating” or combining the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government “in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government.” Continue Reading

Heritage Report: Solutions for America: Overcriminalization

Originally published at The Heritage Foundation by Marion Smith | 8/17/10
Federal criminal law has exploded in size and scope—and deteriorated in quality. Honest, hard-working Americans doing their best to be respectable, law-abiding citizens can no longer be assured that they are safe from federal prosecutors. Federal criminal law used to focus on inherently wrongful conduct: treason, murder, counterfeiting, and the like. Today, an unimaginably broad range of socially and economically beneficial conduct is criminalized. 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