News Release ~ 05/07/2013

Bipartisan Effort Establishes House Judiciary Committee Overcriminalization Task Force 

Washington, DC (May 7, 2013) – The House Committee on the Judiciary this morning voted unanimously to create the “Overcriminalization Task Force of 2013.” According to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), “The task force will be authorized for six months and will be led by Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Bobby Scott.” It will “conduct hearings and investigations and issue a report on overcriminalization in the federal code, as well as possible solutions.” The task force is made up of five Democrats and five Republicans, and will include Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) and Chairman Goodlatte as ex-officio members.

NACDL’s Executive Director Norman L. Reimer, who was present in the hearing room when the resolution unanimously establishing the task force was adopted, said: “This is an important step forward in the movement to combat overcriminalization. It is a bipartisan effort to look at America’s infatuation with criminal law as the solution to every problem, and to address the mass imprisonment it causes. And it shows that despite the partisan divide, overcriminalization is one problem that most everyone agrees needs to be fixed. NACDL is hopeful that the establishment of this task force represents the beginning of the very serious work required to turn today’s words into tomorrow’s deeds.”

At a press briefing this morning, Judiciary Committee and Overcriminalization Task Force leaders appeared in agreement on the need to address several important issues, including the erosion of the mens rea (or criminal intent) requirement in federal criminal law, the often unnecessary duplication of state law in the federal code, extreme overincarceration, and the explosion of regulatory offenses that some estimate may now number as high as 300,000, among other issues. Members also expressed the need to address mandatory minimum sentences. Of course, these are all among the issues on which NACDL has focused in its tireless work on overcriminalization, including in its groundbreaking joint report with the Heritage Foundation, Without Intent: How Congress is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in Federal Law. Indeed, just before the vote creating this task force, Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) specifically recognized NACDL’s role, as well as that of others across the political spectrum, in the important work being taken up by the task force.

To learn more about NACDL’s work and leadership in the effort to combat and roll back overcriminalization in America, please visit www.nacdl.org/overcrim.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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