Overcriminalization Advocacy & Scholarship

Overcriminalization is a dangerous trend that NACDL battles daily. There are over 4,450 crimes scattered throughout the federal criminal code, as well as untold numbers of federal regulatory criminal provisions. Enforcing this monstrous criminal code has resulted in a backlogged judiciary, overflowing prisons, and the incarceration of innocent individuals who plead guilty not because they actually are, but because exercising their constitutional right to a trial is prohibitively expensive and too much of a risk. This enforcement scheme is inefficient, ineffective and, of course, at tremendous taxpayer expense.

NACDL is fully committed to stemming and reversing the tide of overcriminalization. This page contains information and materials on NACDL's efforts to tackle the problem of overcriminalization and foster meaningful reform, as well as, related scholarship and programming.

Advocacy & Related Press

Interview:  NACDL Executive Director Norman Reimer on Overcriminalization 

Legislative Tool:  Criminal Law Checklist for Federal Legislators  

Congressional Task Force on Overcriminalization Hearing, "Regulatory Crime: Identifying the Scope of the Problem," October 30, 2013  

Congressional Task Force on Overcriminalization Hearing, "Mens Rea: The Need for a Meaningful Intent Requirement in Federal Criminal Law," July 19, 2013  

Congressional Task Force on Overcriminalization Hearing, "Defining the Problem and Scope of Over-criminalization and Over-federalization," June 14, 2013  

Congressional Hearing on H.R. 1823, the "Criminal Code Modernization & Simplification Act of 2011," December 13, 2011 

Congressional Hearing on "Reining in Overcriminalization: Assessing the Problems, Proposing Solutions," September 28, 2010 

Capitol Hill Release Event for "Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in Federal Law," May 5, 2010 

Congressional Hearing on "Over-criminalization of Conduct and Over-Federalization of Criminal Law," July 22, 2009  



  • "A Conversation With Abbe David Lowell" - This unique one hour program with prominent defense attorney Abbe D. Lowell discusses lessons learned from his defense of John Edwards, and other prominent politicians, and explores the overcriminalization implications of such prosecutions.  Click here to watch! 
  • Podcast:  Timothy O'Toole & James Copland on Overcriminalization - Timothy O'Toole, criminal defense attorney with Miller Chevalier and NACDL Board Member, and James Copland, director of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, discuss overcriminalization at federal and state levels.  Click here for the audio! 
  • Hill Staffer Training: Have You Committed a Felony Today? - Federal criminal laws present a labyrinth that is difficult for staffers to navigate in order to stay on the right side of the law.  On October 7, 2011, NACDL and the Heritage Foundation co-hosted a training on Capitol Hill to address this very issue.  This panel of experts explores the pitfalls facing Hill staffers in federal criminal law and shares insights on what staffers can do to avoid being prosecuted for how they do their job.  For anyone working on or around Capitol Hill, this must-see program will help you answer that critical question: Have you committed a felony today?  Click here for the video! 


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