How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in Federal Law
Recorded on May 6, 2010
On May 5th, 2010, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) joined Edwin Meese III, Chairman, Center for Legal & Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation and Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for a press conference to heighten awareness about overcriminalization. Overcriminalization includes the proliferation of vague, overbroad criminal offenses that lack adequate criminal intent (mens rea) requirements that protect the innocent. A core principle of the American system of justice is that no one should be subjected to criminal prosecution unless they intentionally engage in inherently wrongful conduct or conduct that they know to be unlawful. Only in such circumstances is a person truly blameworthy and deserving of criminal punishment. Yet in recent decades Congress has enacted scores of fundamentally flawed criminal statutes that lack adequate criminal intent protection for innocent actors.