Loading...
No BYH to Trump voters, you elected a bulldozer to our norms, institutions and very stability. and whatever happens...

Reform needed: Many laws too easy to violate

Trump Finance-3

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks to reporters. Hatch is pushing for mens rea reform. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Loading…

Friday, September 14, 2018

Over the past few decades, there has been a proliferation of criminal statutes and regulations carrying criminal penalties at the federal level. As Congress debates criminal justice reform, mens rea reform should be on the table.

For years, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced and called for legislation to require federal criminal laws and regulations to include a mens rea requirement for prosecution.

Mens rea, Latin for “guilty mind,” deals with the mindset of a person accused of committing a crime.

Mens rea requirements can include requiring prosecutors to prove an accused person “knowingly,” ‘‘willfully” or “intentionally” violated the law.

However, while the federal government has grown significantly over the past several decades, so too has the list of criminal statutes and regulations carrying criminal sanctions.

According to the Heritage Foundation, there are about 5,000 federal criminal statutes and upward of 300,000 criminal regulatory offenses on the books, though precisely how many there are isn’t known.

While many do have some mens rea standards in place, many don’t, and there is often plenty of ambiguity of the sort that shouldn’t be acceptable in the context of criminal sanctions.

To provide greater clarity, last October, Hatch, joined by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, David Perdue, R-Georgia, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, introduced the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2017.

The law called for “a default intent standard for all criminal laws and regulations that lack such a standard.”

“Prosecutors should have to show a suspect had a guilty mind, not just that they committed an illegal act, before an American is put behind bars,” Lee said in a statement.

Unfortunately, the proposal failed to gain traction. However, Hatch, joined by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has since reintroduced a more moderate version of the Mens Rea Reform Act to achieve the same end.

The 2018 version would “establish an extended process for federal agencies and Congress, with the assistance of a National Criminal Justice Commission and input from the public, to clarify the mens rea requirements in our existing criminal laws.”

This approach, which Hatch concedes is more “incremental” than previous efforts, would certainly be an improvement over the status quo.

The proposal has drawn the support of the American Conservative Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Rick Jones, president of the NACDL, rightly notes that the failure to have intent requirements that are clearly defined “undermines the moral authority of our justice system.”

It is unacceptable that Americans can be held criminally accountable for crimes without there being clear intent standards in place.

In a nation predicated on individual liberty and limited government, mens rea reform of the sort called for by Hatch is long overdue. We encourage federal lawmakers to give the matter the consideration it deserves.

The Orange County, California, Register

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Editorials

January 18, 2019

For lawmakers looking for a way to end the longest government shutdown in history, we have a suggestion. Google the 13th Amendment and read what it says. It’s just one sentence.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have…

eleanorclift.jpg

January 18, 2019

What is among the most nagging, gear-grinding frustrations generated by the Great Government Shutdown is that the folks in Washington will do nothing about it except whine.

The shutdown will enter its 28th day today. Apparently, the impasse is over funding to build for a wall between Mexico and the…

Government Shutdown-3

January 17, 2019

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt has displayed patience and grace in navigating the various pressures from the UNC System Board of Governors and the leadership of the General Assembly. It has been particularly evident in addressing the controversy over the fate of the “Silent Sam”…

Confederate Monuments North Carolina

January 16, 2019

Two weeks into this new session of Congress and we’re no closer to knowing who will represent North Carolina’s 9th District in the House of Representatives. Nor do we know who will make the final call on how the seat will be filled or who will fill it. Will it be the state’s board…

Election 2018 9th Congressional District-2

January 14, 2019

Since 1990, lions, tigers and other big cats have killed 24 people ... in the United States.

The latest fatality occurred one week ago near Burlington, when a captive lion attacked and killed an intern at a wildlife center.

Alexandra Black, 22, who had been on the job for only two weeks, was…

Lion Attack-1

January 13, 2019

How fitting is it that President Trump’s first Oval Office address was aimed at stirring up the American public about a crisis largely of his own making?

Pursuing poorly thought-out and even more poorly executed policies on the pretext of battling a nonexistent national security crisis, Trump…

Government Shutdown Trump

January 12, 2019

A federal court ruling in Iowa could signal the unraveling of North Caroina’s harsh, punitive and shortsighted anti-whistleblower law.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa on Wednesday struck down that state’s ag-gag law because if violated the First Amendment. The…

January 11, 2019

When North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders have seen their work struck down in court as unconstitutional — as they have many times — they have frequently responded by attacking the judge or judges as partisan hacks.

That approach won’t work if the conservative-…

Supreme Court Kavanaugh

January 10, 2019

Very promising news about antibiotic use in farm animals has come from the Food and Drug Administration. The problem of resistance — the tendency of bacteria to fight back against antibiotic drugs — has been growing for decades, fueled by overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human…

beef

January 09, 2019

The new session of the General Assembly that convened at noon Wednesday may hold some interesting political twists and turns. Things have changed a bit, in an important way.

As it’s been throughout this decade, Republicans are in charge. But unlike the past few sessions, they no longer hold a…

state seal
86 stories in Editorials. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 9
        Next Page»   Last Page»