Sunday, June 9, 2013

Overcriminalization - A New Congressional Task Force

A recent article by George Will published in the Washington Post shines a light on probably the most serious problem facing the federal criminal justice system: overcriminalization. Congress continues to legislate new federal crimes – now numbering at least 4,500 – with no end in sight. As Will points out, the proliferation of federal crimes and passage of mandatory minimum sentencing laws have increased incarceration rates and sentence lengths in this country to extraordinary levels. All that prosecution and incarceration costs money. Moreover, the expansion of regulatory offenses and concomitant dilution of the requirement that criminal conviction requires a “guilty mind” means that it is now eminently possible to commit a federal crime by accident. The newly created House Judiciary Committee’s Over-Criminalization Task Force House is a step in the right direction.