Bench Memos

Over-criminalization and the GOP Platform

I was heartened to see that the GOP platform adopted strong language about the increasing problem of over-criminalization:

The resources of the federal government’s law enforcement and judicial systems have been strained by two unfortunate expansions: the over-criminalization of behavior and the over-federalization of offenses. The number of criminal offenses in the U.S. Code increased from 3,000 in the early 1980s to over 4,450 by 2008. Federal criminal law should focus on acts by federal employees or acts committed on federal property – and leave the rest to the States. Then Congress should withdraw from federal departments and agencies the power to criminalize behavior, a practice which, according to the Congressional Research Service, has created “tens of thousands” of criminal offenses.  No one other than an elected representative should have the authority to define a criminal act and set criminal penalties.  In the same way, Congress should reconsider the extent to which it has federalized offenses traditionally handled on the State or local level.

To learn more about over-criminalization, I recommend the following short videos on NACDL’s website. They were developed by the coalition of organizations and individuals who focus on the issue, and provide a nice overview of the problem, case studies, and ideas for reform.  

Video 1:  Criminalizing the Everyday


The Latest

Overturn <i>Roe</i>

Overturn Roe

A majority of the Court knows that the 1973 decision is nonsense. It is past time for the justices to say so.