Saturday, August 1, 2009

Overcriminalization: An Area That Needs Attention

Several groups were on the hill this past week for a hearing on “Over-criminalization of Conduct and Over-Federalization of Criminal Law” before the U.S. House of Representatives Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee.  The coalition includes an odd mix of groups from the ABA, ACLU and NACDL to the Heritage Foundation, Washington Legal Foundation and Federalist Society. The very fact that such a wide array of groups are agreeing that change is needed, is important.  To give a flavor of the arguments, here is the  NACDL statement and testimony.  An overhaul of the federal criminal justice system is needed, and one of the deficiencies of the existing system is that there is overcriminalization and overfederalization. Lets hope the strong showing by so many different constituencies moves this issue forward.

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Comments

Yes, let's hope.

Posted by: Suzette Watkins | Aug 2, 2009 6:58:27 PM

Certainly an area that needs attention. However, in the political-economic climate that we are living in, I'm not very optimistic. With white collar criminals being a commonly blamed group for the slumping economy, and the issue not being one that hits very close to home for most people, change seems unlikely, even with the strong academic support for the initiative.

Posted by: Charlie Campbell | Aug 4, 2009 5:22:59 AM

I agree wholeheartedly that this needs not only attention, but a total overhaul. We are living in a time when U.S. federal criminal law mirrors that of the old U.S.S.R. with its "economic crimes" and "crimes of analogy."

The law no longer recognizes "mens rea" or any of the other protections that Americans once enjoyed. Instead, federal prosecutors scour the record to see if they can find any violation -- no matter how unintentional -- and then send someone to prison.

Now, I have no hope at all that things will change. Are any law schools even dealing with this issue? I thought not. This is the wave of the future, and it is not a good thing.

Posted by: William Anderson | Aug 7, 2009 11:40:09 AM

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