Washington, DC (July 25, 2014) – This morning, NACDL Immediate Past President Steven D. Benjamin testified on behalf of NACDL before the bipartisan House Judiciary Overcriminalization Task Force. The topic of the hearing was "The Crimes on the Books and Committee Jurisdiction."
In his testimony, Benjamin provided significant detail about the problem of overcriminalization, including covering the subjects of the proliferation of the federal criminal code, the absence of meaningful criminal intent requirements in federal statutes and regulations, rules of construction, sentencing, collateral consequences and the restoration of rights, and the critical importance of Judiciary Committee jurisdiction when it comes to the consideration and adoption of legislation that would add or modify criminal offenses or penalties in the federal code. Importantly, as Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and others cited favorably, Benjamin's testimony proposes concrete goals and solutions. "We're ready to act, we know the problem," Rep. Bachus said, inviting NACDL to also submit model statutes to aid the Task Force in the work that lies ahead to address the scourge of overcriminalization in the federal law.
Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) said that he looks forward to working with Task Force Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to develop a consensus report based upon the work of the Task Force and to present it to the full House Judiciary Committee. Chairman Sensenbrenner indicated his desire to see the bipartisan approach to tackling overcriminalization extend into the new Congress in which he hopes to see reforms regarding mens rea, or criminal intent, and regulatory criminalization, among others, be enacted into law.
Benjamin was one of two witnesses at today's hearing. The other was Dr. John S. Baker Jr. (Visiting Professor, Georgetown Law School). This was the tenth and final hearing of the reauthorized Congressional Task Force on Overcriminalization. NACDL leadership testified at four of those ten hearings, with NACDL Immediate Past President Steven D. Benjamin testifying on behalf NACDL at both the first hearing of the Task Force in June 2013 and today, its final hearing.
A link to the written testimony of both witnesses at today's hearing is available here. Webcasts and additional information about the Congressional Overcriminalization Task Force's nine previous hearings can be found at www.nacdl.org/overcrimtaskforce. Additional NACDL resources on the topic of overcriminalization are available at www.nacdl.org/overcrim.
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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.