Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, is raising an intriguing issue people don’t talk much about these days: the steady growth of federal criminal laws, many of which deal with crimes already covered by state laws in places subject to state law.
Goodlatte is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which this week formed a bipartisan task force on what it is calling over-criminalization of federal law. The committee estimates there are now 4,500 federal crimes detailed in the U.S. Code. In addition, a number of federal regulations impose criminal penalties without requiring proof of criminal intent.
“Over-criminalization is an issue of liberty,” Goodlatte said. “As federal criminal laws and regulations have increased, so has the number of Americans who have found themselves breaking the law with no intent of doing so. Americans who make innocent mistakes should not be charged with criminal offenses.”