May 9, 2014
Overcriminalization — the overuse and misuse of the criminal law — is a very real problem in America, Heritage Foundation legal expert Paul Larkin explains:
Legislatures pass too many statutes creating crimes (especially federal offenses); legislatures too frequently empower administrative agencies to define crimes or otherwise “fill in the blanks” in laws that can be enforced through the criminal process; legislatures too often define offenses with inadequate mens rea or scienter (“guilty mind”) requirements; and legislatures too often increase penalties for existing crimes simply to make it look as though they have done something to reduce crime.
A large and growing number of highly respected figures believe that overcriminalization in fact is a serious problem . . . This widespread concern, voiced by important figures in the policymaking process representing very different viewpoints, justifies the belief that the problem is a systemic flaw in the criminal justice system and is not limited to isolated instances of legislative or prosecutorial overreaching.