Tim O'Toole's House Testimony on "Clean Up Government Act" Quoted by PointofLaw.com

"'Clean Up Government Act' Sparks Overcriminalization Concerns"

The article quotes Tim O'Toole's written testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, in which he articulated his concern with the criminal provisions of the proposed "Clean Up Government Act" (H.R. 2572).

O'Toole states, "We already have a very powerful set of federal laws that prevent and punish those public officials who trade on their public office for private gain. There are, in fact, over 20 federal statutes that are currently very effectively used by prosecutors to curtail suspected public corruption and fraud. These statutes impose stern punishments against those found guilty of these corruption offenses. I write to illustrate to you that H.R. 2572 represents a number of unnecessary changes to the law that will create additional confusion, cost, and potentially unintended consequences, while at the same time having no appreciable affect on curtailing public corruption.

In many ways, the proposal reflects a disturbing trend that we, along with organizations on the right and the left, have labeled overcriminalization… A variety of political, economic and corporate scandals have graced the front pages of our newspapers, and over the past 30 years, Congress has responded to the public's sense of outrage at these events by adopting more and more overlapping laws, often usurping areas that have been competently handled by state and local jurisdictions, ignoring legal safeguards such as criminal intent requirements that limit the criminal law to specific cases of criminal wrong-doing, and incrementally toughening the penalties without regard for cost or even any sense of normative justice…

There are over 4,450 federal crimes scattered throughout the 50 titles of the United States Code. In addition, it is estimated that there are at least 10,000, and quite possibly as many as 300,000, federal regulations that can be enforced criminally. The truth is no one, including our own government, has been able to provide an accurate count of how many criminal offenses exist in our federal code. This is not simply statistical curiosity, but a matter with serious consequences."

"'Clean Up Government Act' Sparks Overcriminalization Concerns," PointofLaw.com, December 14, 2011.

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