Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today reauthorized the Over-Criminalization Task Force for an additional six months by voice vote. This bipartisan Task Force was originally authorized in May 2013 for six months in order to assess our current federal criminal statutes and make recommendations for improvements. Since its inception, the Task Force has held four hearings, covering topics such as the need for meaningful intent requirements in our federal criminal laws and the expansion of regulatory crimes. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) – who leads the Task Force – released the statements below on today’s Committee vote.
Chairman Goodlatte: “I am pleased the House Judiciary Committee has reauthorized the bipartisan Over-Criminalization Task Force so that we can continue to build upon its good work and examine more issues contributing to the growing over-criminalization problem. Over the past few decades, the federal criminal code has expanded dramatically, creating an ever-increasing labyrinth of federal statutes and regulations, many of which impose criminal penalties without requiring that criminal intent be shown to establish guilt. We need to make sure our laws and regulations protect freedom, work as efficiently and fairly as possible, and do not duplicate state efforts. This Task Force is taking a detailed look at our criminal code, seeking input from recognized experts in the field, and intends to examine many issues this year.”
Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner: “Last year, the Task Force held multiple hearings related to the growing problems of over-criminalization and over-federalization, but our work is far from finished. The criminal code is muddled and outdated. Over the next six months, I will continue to work with Ranking Member Scott and the other members of the Task Force as we review federal laws and identify common-sense, bipartisan solutions. Our goal remains to codify and modernize the criminal code.”
Background: The United States Code currently contains some 4,500 federal crimes. Recent studies estimate that approximately 60 new federal crimes are enacted each year, and over the past three decades, Congress has averaged 500 new crimes per decade. In addition to the statutory criminal offenses, there are thousands of federal regulations that, if violated, can also result in criminal liability. Some of these new statutes have been accompanied by hundreds of thousands of implementing regulations – studies put the number at more than 300,000 – many of which, if violated, can also result in criminal liability.
The Over-Criminalization Task Force is led by Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.). Members of the Task Force include Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), George Holding (R-N.C.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Ex officio members of the Task Force include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.).