Overcriminalization has become a serious issue in recent years. With more
than 4,000 federal criminal laws on the books and thousands more hidden
in the countless federal regulations, it’s somewhat ridiculous to
expect anyone to know all of the laws that could result in a criminal
conviction. It’s gotten so out of hand, in fact, that the Department
of Justice is unable to tell the exact number of actions that can result
in potential criminal penalties.
Overcriminalization has a number of causes, but most can point to the fact
that federal legislators have begun to overreach into areas that are either
previously covered or have no business being criminally regulated. This
can include things such as:
- Ambiguous criminalization of conduct without limitation
Enacting criminal statutes without
mens rea requirements
- Imposing liability without personal awareness or neglect evidence
- Imposing criminal consequences on economic activity or civil enforcement areas
- Imposing mandatory minimum sentences disproportionate to the harm or wrongfulness of an act
- Making federal laws that cover what was already reserved for state jurisdiction
- Adopting overlapping or duplicative statutes
Solutions to Overcriminalization
One of the primary reasons for overcriminalization has to do with the ease
with which regulatory bodies can impose criminal penalties for violating
the regulations they impose. Everyone from the Federal Communications
Commission to the Food & Drug Administration to the Environmental
Protection Agency may have the best interests of the public at heart but
step too far when it comes to imposing criminal penalties on what would
otherwise be a civil suit or issue of tort law rather than criminal law.
Instead, members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
suggest that these regulatory entities should be forbidden from penalizing
these forms of conduct in any way beyond simple civil penalties and administrative
actions. Likewise, they also suggest that any administrative agency who
wishes to impose criminal penalties do so by a statute passed by Congress
after thorough evaluation.
If you are facing federal criminal charges, don’t hesitate to contact
a Nebraska criminal defense attorney experienced in federal criminal defense.
Since 1965, Berry Law Firm attorneys have stood up for people facing all
types of criminal charges, including federal crimes.
Call the Berry Law Firm today at 402.817.6550 to discuss a federal criminal