The House Judiciary Committee today approved by voice vote the creation of a bipartisan task force on over-criminalization to assess our current federal criminal statutes and make recommendations for improvements.
The task force is authorized for six months and will be led by Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.). Members of the task force include Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), George Holding (R-N.C.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Ex officio members of the task force include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.).
Congressman Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on the creation of this task force:
“Over-criminalization is an issue of liberty. As federal criminal laws and regulations have increased, so has the number of Americans who have found themselves breaking the law with no intent of doing so. Americans who make innocent mistakes should not be charged with criminal offenses. We need to take a closer look at our laws and regulations to make sure that they protect freedom, work as efficiently and fairly as possible, and do not duplicate state efforts. I am hopeful that the bipartisan task force established today will be able to reach consensus and make recommendations to the House Judiciary Committee on how to improve our federal criminal statutes and protect our freedom.”At present, there are an estimated 4,500 federal crimes in the U.S. Code, many of which address conduct also regulated by the states. According to a study by the Federalist Society, the number of federal criminal offenses increased by 30 percent between 1980 and 2004. There were 452 new federal criminal offenses enacted between 2000 and 2007, averaging 56.5 new crimes per year. Over the past three decades, Congress has been averaging 500 new crimes per decade. One problem with the expansion of the federal criminal code is that along with it has come an ever-increasing labyrinth of federal regulations, often which impose criminal penalties without requiring that criminal intent be shown to establish guilt.