Mission Creep in Congress
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  • Tom Holsinger

    I disagree. There are too many such laws, and there will be more. I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the only effective solution is a Constitutional requirement, via amendment, that all laws punishable by penal servitude require specific intent. We won’t see that for a long time, and then probably only from a convention to propose Constitutional amendments called by the States. Which means a very long time unless there are real exciting events in the near future.

  • Thrasymachus

    “Knowingly” is actually a pretty high *mens rea.*Meeting it requires the perpetrator to “knowingly” commit the specific act forbidden by the law in question (the “actus reus”). In practice, this amounts to pretty much the same thing as “intentionally”.

    The standards below that, by contrast, really do impose increasingly large circles of liability, and their use in the penal codes should be accordingly circumscribed. They are “recklessly,” “negligently”, and [none].

    I think it’s acceptable to impose a prison term for violating a statute with a “recklessness” requirement, but I wouldn’t go lower than that.

  • Tom

    The exceedingly obvious counter to this (somewhat lightweight) point of view is that there are about 1,000,001 ways for the clever offender to hide their guilty mind, to hide their intent. Intent is very hard to prove and provides the most common escape hatch for white collar criminals who steal and trash billions in wealth every year.

  • Caleb

    There are actually two issues here: 1)the proliferation of new laws which criminalize increasingly wider and more minute areas of civil life, and 2) the weakening of mens rea requirements within those laws. Mr. Mead wisely focuses on the first issue, as it more aptly explains the problem of unintentional criminal violations.

    Mens rea requirements, however, do not pertain to the perpetrator’s knowledge the law. It is universally accepted Common Law doctrine that “ignorantia juris non excusat” or “ignorance of the law does not excuse.” Mens rea levels (typically divided into four ordinal tiers: negligence; recklessness; knowledge; and purpose) only ask if the perpetrator knew he was indeed doing the act in question, not that he knew the act was illegal.

  • Jim.

    I agree that there are far too many laws. Perhaps along with a “balanced budget” amendment, we need a “balanced lawbooks” amendment, which requires legislators to retire one page of legal code for every page they seek to add.

  • Toni

    Is that Mission Creep in Congress, or Mission Creeps?

  • There are so many laws which a common man don’t know and doing some work he may break the law. Sometimes its not an issue and some times it becomes a big issue. Mean while lawyers are there who are well aware of these law and help people not performing such task again. All the time before punishing any one the intention behind the work is the most important factor.

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