The 1995 Crime Bills: Is the GOP the Party of Liberty and Limited Government?

June 1, 1995 • Policy Analysis No. 229

The everyday crime that disrupts American life is largely a local problem, best handled by state and local law enforcement agencies. Yet Congress in recent years, in an effort to be seen “doing something” about crime, has been federalizing vast areas of criminal law, creating more regulatory crimes, and spawning a huge prosecutorial bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, the 1995 GOP crime bills introduced in the House and Senate promise more of the same, but with the addition of unprecedented provisions that would threaten freedom and undermine the fair administration of justice.

  • The Senate crime bill would vest federal prosecutors with the power to have their opposing counsel indicted, without any finding of misconduct by the court, whenever the prosecutor claims that opposing counsel made a false statement of fact or law in written arguments filed in opposition to the government.
  • The Senate bill includes a provision that would exempt federal prosecutors from the rules of legal ethics.
  • Both the Senate and the House crime bills would enable federal agents to invade homes, raid businesses, and conduct humiliating body searches without legal justification, while reaping the benefits of evidence collected through such illegal searches.
  • The Senate bill would enable federal agents to detain citizens, hold them incommunicado, interrogate them for days or weeks or months, and use any statements extracted during an illegal detention in a subsequent prosecution.