February 01, 2014

Over-Criminalization Task Force extended

The House Judiciary Committee approved a six-month extension for its bipartisan Over-Criminalization Task Force by a voice vote Feb. 5.

The task force, which is now authorized through Aug. 4, 2014, was first established for six months in May 2013 to assess the nation’s criminal justice system and develop recommendations for improving the system.

In December, the ABA urged the committee to extend the task force so that it can continue to provide a forum for a constructive conversation on the problems of over-criminalization in the system. The association expressed support for the task force’s early focus on assessing the scope of the program, the erosion of mens rea requirements, and regulatory solutions.

Additional time, according to ABA Governmental Affairs Directory Thomas M. Susman, will give the task force the opportunity to more closely examine other issues, including overuse of mandatory minimum sentencing, federalization of crimes, proliferation of collateral consequences of conviction, and the related need to overhaul the federal criminal code.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who leads the 10-member task force with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), said the criminal code is “muddled and outdated,” and that he would continue to work with members of the task force to review federal laws and identify “common-sense, bipartisan solutions.”  “Our goal,” he said, “remains to codify and modernize the criminal code.”

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