Overcriminalization

Yesterday, I was invited to testify on Capitol Hill. The subject was the Overcriminalization of Conduct & Overfederalization of Criminal Law. Long overdue subject for Congress to address. 

My fellow witnesses included former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, as well as two victims of federal bullying – Kathy Norris (relating what happened to her husband) and Krister Evertson. Their stories are vivid reminders of how the legal deck is presently stacked against us all. That is, when an innocent person sits down in a quiet room to assess his options following a federal arrest and indictment, you soon learn that you’ll be broken financially if you choose to fight and go to trial. The pressure to plead guilty – even if you are innocent – is enormous.   If we had a small and sensible criminal code where the rules were clear and objective, the costs of defending yourself from bogus (or trumped up) charges would be sharply reduced.  My testimony can be found here.

Prof. Stephen Saltzburg made the case against mandatory minimum sentencing and Prof. James Strazzella made the case against the Overfederalization of Criminal Law. All in all a good hearing.

And, while I’m at it,  here’s a terrific piece that appeared in the Washington Post this week. For additional Cato scholarship, go here and here.