How To Talk About…
OVERCRIMINALIZATION

TOO MANY LAWS,
TOO LITTLE OVERSIGHT


  • Criminal law in America is out of hand. No American could possibly know all of the 4,500 federal statutes and 300,000 regulations that contain criminal penalties.
  • More and more Americans who have worked diligently to abide by the law are being trapped and unjustly punished due to vague, overly broad criminal offenses.

JUST LAWS


  • Congress seems to have forgotten that it can and should repeal bad laws. The worst, most unjust criminal laws should be thrown out, and future laws should be carefully and fairly constructed.
  • Honest mistakes should not result in prison time. Federal law should officially establish statues ensuring that cases of unclear laws are ruled in favor of the individual.

POLICY PROPOSALS


  1. Require Congress to provide written analysis and justification for new criminal offenses.
  2. Codify the common law “Rule of Lenity” to ensure that the court gives the benefit of the doubt to the defendant when interpreting vague or ambiguous criminal statutes.
  3. Prohibit agencies and unelected bureaucrats from establishing new crimes in regulation.
  4. Repeal criminal laws that deal with activities reasonable Americans would not know are unlawful.

QUICK FACTS


  1. The number of offenses in the U.S. Code increased from 3,000 in the early 1980s to over 4,450 by 2008.
  2. Currently, it is estimated that more than 4,500 federal statutes and 300,000 regulations contain potential criminal penalties.
  3. Inherently wrongful conduct has been criminalized several times over, yet Congress enacted 452 new criminal offenses from 2000 to 2007.

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