News Release

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Proposes Ill-Conceived Legislation That Would Undermine Core Tenet of American Criminal Justice

Washington, DC (Apr. 3, 2019) – Earlier today, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced the “Corporate Executive Accountability Act,” an ill-conceived piece of legislation that would undermine a central tenet of the American system of criminal justice – that a “guilty mind” or mens rea must be present before someone can be deemed criminally blameworthy. Sen. Warren’s legislation, among other things, would expressly convert civil liability – which is provable by the lower ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard – into criminal liability – provable by the higher standard of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ – and it proposes to do so without regard to intent.

“The concept of transmuting civil negligence into criminal behavior is not only altogether wrong, it is actually dangerous,” said NACDL President Drew Findling. “Corporate executive accountability is not something that can be promoted by abandoning core principles of criminal law that have been part of the Anglo-American legal tradition for centuries. It can only come through clearly and appropriately drafted and noticed laws that remain anchored to the principle that criminal punishment – the deprivation of individual liberty – requires both a criminal act and criminal intent, nothing less. NACDL is committed to ensuring that this principle remains vital whether the matter concerns conduct in the street or conduct in the C-suite.”

NACDL has engaged in substantial work over the years aimed at ensuring the moral and principled anchor of America’s criminal justice system – that criminal liability and criminal punishment must not attach in the absence of criminal intent. This work included a groundbreaking joint study and blueprint for reform with the Heritage Foundation – Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in the Federal Law

You can read more about NACDL’s extensive work in the area of overcriminalization in America here:

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

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 many thousands of 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.