Today the House Judiciary Committee announced a cluster of bills designed to address the federal overcriminalization problem by providing a default mens rea for federal law, providing notice of crimes that could be committed through violation of an agency regulation, and sunsetting a series of obsolete criminal offenses. These bills will be marked up tomorrow morning by the full committee, along with a sentencing reform bill. Chairman Bob Goodlatte has carefully laid the groundwork for these bills, so it’s exciting to see them finally moving to the full committee. Congratulations to Representatives Sensenbrenner, Chabot, Walters, and Buck for sponsoring these important proposals. It’s also worth noting the bipartisan support for these bills from Ranking Member John Conyers (who is an original co-sponsor of all four bills) and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (who is an original co-sponsor of all but the last bill).
Here’s a list of the bills just introduced:
- Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015: Creates a default mens rea standard that applies where federal law does not establish one.
- Regulatory Reporting Act of 2015: Requires federal agencies to report to Congress each rule that could be punishable by criminal penalties.
- Clean Up the Code Act of 2015: Eliminates obsolete criminal offenses, such as “transportation of water hyacinths” and “fraudulent use of 4-H emblem.”
- Fix the Footnotes Act of 2015: Cleans up typographical errors and unclear sections of numerous statutes that create federal crimes.
This post has been updated to note bipartisan sponsorship of the bills.