Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirements in Federal Law

The Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have just released a new report which provides the results of a joint study of the federal legislative process for all studied non-violent criminal offenses introduced in the 109th Congress in 2005 and 2006.

Sponsored by Representatives Robert Cortez “Bobby” Scott and Louis Buller Gohmert, Jr., Chairman and Ranking Member of the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, the study reveals that “offenses with inadequate mens rea [guilty mind] requirements are ubiquitous at all stages of the legislative process: Over 57 percent of the offenses introduced, and 64 percent of those enacted into law, contained inadequate mens rea requirements, putting the innocent at risk of criminal punishment. Compounding the problem, this study also found consistently poor legislative drafting and broad delegation of Congress’s authority to make criminal law to unaccountable regulators.”

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