Federal Government Accused of Adding an Average of One New Crime a Week

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
(grapjic: stickylee.com)

Even amid partisan bickering, Congress knows how to be productive. In fact, lawmakers can be too productive when it comes to creating new crimes.


Over the past decade, Congress has created an average of one new crime a week, according to Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.


Goodlatte and some of his colleagues have grown concerned with what they call the over-criminalization of American life—a result of lawmakers creating too many new crimes.


A study was convened by the Over-Criminalization Task Force, which discovered the criminal code had grown by 500 new statutes in about 10 years. It now includes about 4,500 crimes.


“The recent growth of the federal code in all areas of life has brought with it an ever-increasing labyrinth of federal regulations, many of which also impose criminal penalties without a showing of mens rea, or criminal intent,” Goodlatte said.


Some of the laws have wound up punishing Americans for actions not considered a serious offense, such as a child who was fined $535 under the migratory bird law for saving a woodpecker from her family’s cat. After a public outcry, the fine was cancelled.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Way Too Many Criminal Laws, Lawyers Tell Congress (by Todd Ruger, Blog of the Legal Times)

Orchid Kingpin? Mistake Lands Elderly Gardener in Prison (by John Jessup, CBN News)

Agency Cancels $535 Fine for Woodpecker Savior’s Mom (msnbc.com)

Prepared Statement of Hon. George J. Terwilliger Iii Partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP (House Committee on the Judiciary Over-Criminalization Task Force) (pdf)

16 Federal Crimes with a Statute of Limitations (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)



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