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Overcriminalization: Sacrificing the Rule of Law in Pursuit of "Justice"
The Heritage Foundation ^ | March 1, 2011 | The Honorable Dick Thornburgh

Posted on 05/03/2011 1:34:56 PM PDT by neverdem

Abstract: Those who commit real crimes should be prosecuted and appropriately punished. But the question of what kind of conduct is deserving of criminal punishment has become increasingly muddled in federal law. Although numerous ridiculous crimes that punish relatively trivial wrongs have crept into federal law, the greater danger comes from serious laws that are vague and overbroad. Further, Congress has authorized federal agencies to create tens of thousands of additional crimes that trap Americans by punishing obscure conduct. Federal agencies and prosecutors with inadequate oversight make overly aggressive application of these laws to target Americans who are often unaware their conduct is now illegal. Congress should complete the task it undertook in the 1970s and 1980s to shape the thousands of criminal offenses into a rational, orderly Federal Criminal Code; end its practice of authorizing unelected agency officials to create criminal offenses and penalties; and eliminate laws that rely on tort-law doctrines to allow one person to be punished for the criminal acts of another. The Department of Justice, as well, must exercise more vigorous supervision of its prosecutors and their charging decisions. As part of The Heritage Foundation’s “Preserve the Constitution” series, former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh explains what should be done to reestablish federal...

--snip--

The problem of overcriminalization is truly one of those issues on which a wide variety of constituencies can agree—witness the broad support for reform from such varied groups as The Heritage Foundation, the Washington Legal Foundation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Bar Association, the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society, and the American Civil Liberties Union. These groups all share a common goal: to have criminal statutes that punish actual criminal acts and that do not seek to criminalize conduct better dealt with through civil and regulatory remedies...

(Excerpt) Read more at heritage.org ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Editorial; Front Page News; Government
KEYWORDS: atlasshrugged; democrats; donttreadonme; federalcriminalcode; govtabuse; liberalfascism; overcriminalization; rapeofliberty; thornburgh; tyranny
A complete revamping and consolidation of the federal criminal code might be the only productive idea for a split Congress. It sounds like a good idea to get some reigns on Leviathan and restore respect for the law. Now, ignorance of arbitrary, obscure laws should be an excuse!
1 posted on 05/03/2011 1:35:06 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem
Let me be the first to say:

“Did you really think we want those laws observed? We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against... We’re after power and we mean it... There’s no way to rule innocent men.

“The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

“Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt.

“Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

—-Dr. Floyd Ferris (ATLAS SHRUGGED, Ayn Rand, 1957)

2 posted on 05/03/2011 1:38:40 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Under Islam, there is no separation of church and state. The church IS the state.)
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To: neverdem

The more laws and regulations that get added the more watered down the enforcement of the existing laws and regulation becomes.

Why any politician cannot conceive this simple concept is why we are in the mess we are in.


3 posted on 05/03/2011 1:40:55 PM PDT by GraceG
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To: neverdem
When everyone is made into a criminal, you have a progressive utopia. Anyone who doesn't like a person or group for any reason has an effective weapon.

It's not by happenstance. It's very deliberate.

Texas lizards, Amish milk farmers, legal illegal immigrants, riding a bike on sunday before noon, two high school kids playing backseat happy pants become registered sexual predators, driving without shoes on your feet, blinking your headlights, are just a few..........

Millions of people make a living off of low level criminals. Those are the best kind. They pay their fines, won't piss in your squad car, don't throw feces at the jailer, cower in front of a judge, and will deplete every asset they have to stay out or get out of jail.

Overcriminalization is downright profitable. Real criminals are an expense, hard on staff morale, kick the windows out of the squad car, throw poo, and want to kill the judge and his dog. They don't pay their fines, and are a drain on the system.

4 posted on 05/03/2011 1:48:22 PM PDT by blackdog (The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop)
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To: blackdog

Woof.


5 posted on 05/03/2011 1:54:15 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Hawk)
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To: neverdem
The vast overreach that the feds have made in criminalizing everything under the sun cheapens those laws we should have in place, and causes our respect for the law to diminish. Frankly, I have little to know respect for the laws these days as they have become arbitrary, and essentially a tool to be used as a weapon against your average citizen rather than criminals who have actual victims.

At this point, the only real solution to this is to start taking your responsibilities when you sit on juries more seriously. I'd have a very hard time convicting anyone of just about any crime that did not have a readily identifiable victim. If more people understood their responsibilities as jurists, the country would be in a lot better shape.

6 posted on 05/03/2011 1:54:32 PM PDT by zeugma (The only thing in the social security trust fund is your children and grandchildren's sweat.)
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To: blackdog
Millions of people make a living off of low level criminals. Those are the best kind. They pay their fines, won't piss in your squad car, don't throw feces at the jailer, cower in front of a judge, and will deplete every asset they have to stay out or get out of jail.

Overcriminalization is downright profitable. Real criminals are an expense, hard on staff morale, kick the windows out of the squad car, throw poo, and want to kill the judge and his dog. They don't pay their fines, and are a drain on the system.

Well said. Worth repeating.

7 posted on 05/03/2011 2:10:05 PM PDT by zeugma (The only thing in the social security trust fund is your children and grandchildren's sweat.)
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To: neverdem
Every level of Government have turned more actions in felonies to try to disarm as many citizens as possible.

It would not surprise me to see misdemeanors go away as the worthless politicians try even harder to bring us under their thumb.

8 posted on 05/03/2011 2:11:17 PM PDT by OldMissileer (Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, PK. Winners of the Cold War)
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To: zeugma
Exactly the strategy with gun control laws. Everyone with a gun is a criminal in New Jersey. All need be done to prosecute is to pull the prosecutorial trigger.

My plan on the whole overcriminalization phenomenon is to require that for every bill passed at the federal and state level, two be repealed. Lawmakers want milk in schools? Two laws come off the books! Want to protect a trout in the Great Lakes Basin? Two more laws come off the books! Want a consumer protection bill? Two more laws come off the books!

Call it the "Blackdog PORKT" Act! (pass one required kill two) And to pass my bill, I offer up anything froma dead Kennedy and a Banking law from Barney Frank, to pay my way.

9 posted on 05/03/2011 2:14:35 PM PDT by blackdog (The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop)
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To: zeugma
My dad worked in a maximum security state prison. I got a lifetime of examples of how and why our justice system lobbies for and makes the choices in legislation that it does.

The American Justice System is fascinating when studied all the way back to it's founding. If you're a Tocqueville reader, it's rich. Most countries round up their criminals, sell them off as slaves, kill them, or make them do work which would kill people over time. Warehousing them and paying for their care is an American quirk all our own. In a public treasury faced with reduced receipts, for the same industry to flourish which existed a decade ago, we need to flip the economic rules on criminals. Crime needs to be a profit center, not an overhead or expense. We are in the midst of that transition right now and the PR balancing act.

In another decade, the only murderers, rapists, and thugs on the streets will be working for political causes and union groups. The criminal justice system will be full of nice criminals offered debit cards to pay for their weekly parole officer visit and anger management counseling sessions.

10 posted on 05/03/2011 2:32:55 PM PDT by blackdog (The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop)
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To: zeugma

Except for the fact that the majority of “crimes” of this sort are accomplished without juries. “Civil” and administrative actions can be just as expensive to the unsuspecting “criminal.”

There are no laws governing the conduct of civil and administrative officers such as social workers, inspectors, and the vast number of alphabet soup agency workers. Arbitrary doesn’t come close to describing the requirements imposed without reason, mercy, or common decency. They are not beyond the law; they simply make it up as they go. And there is no recourse and no recompense for the victim.

The triumph of statutory law over common law has outlawed the common man while the triumph of unaccountable regulatory authorities has degraded our system beyond recognition or repair.

Any time a regular person opposes the government, it’s at the government’s leisure and at the defendant’s expense. You can’t outlast them and you can’t outspend them.


11 posted on 05/03/2011 2:39:21 PM PDT by antidisestablishment (Our people perish through lack of wisdom, but they are content in their ignorance.)
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To: Owl_Eagle; brityank; Physicist; WhyisaTexasgirlinPA; GOPJ; abner; baseballmom; Mo1; Ciexyz; ...

Dick Thornburgh ping


12 posted on 05/03/2011 2:49:33 PM PDT by Tribune7 (We're flat broke, but he thinks these solar shingles and really fast trains will magically save us.)
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To: blackdog

Excellent observations.


13 posted on 05/03/2011 3:17:56 PM PDT by lastchance ("Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis" St. Augustine)
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14 posted on 05/03/2011 3:29:14 PM PDT by TheOldLady (Almost as evil as the Freeper Criminal Mastermind)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
“Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.” — Dr. Floyd Ferris (ATLAS SHRUGGED, Ayn Rand, 1957)

LOL, thanks for posting that. As I read the article, it was the first thing that sprang to mind.

The laws are exactly the way those who control them, want them. The most important of all "lessons" for "the people" to learn is that the world they see around them is not an accident - it is a deliberate, conscious creation that is carefully maintained and directed.

And the biggest creation of all, is the illusion that it is random.

15 posted on 05/03/2011 4:00:53 PM PDT by Talisker (When you find a turtle on top of a fence post, you can be damn sure it didn't get there on its own.)
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To: antidisestablishment
The triumph of statutory law over common law has outlawed the common man while the triumph of unaccountable regulatory authorities has degraded our system beyond recognition or repair.

It gets worse when you examine the details. Criminalization of normal behavior means that normal people are thrown into jail. They have to get along with hardened criminals. Think the gang-banger lifestyle is bad? How about the effects of having to rub shoulders with real criminals?

Thankfully, we can draw lines based upon our sense of right and wrong. Some poor sap who got busted for carrying too much cash around keeps himself law-abiding at heart when he says he didn't commit a "real crime." He's helped by other people agreeing with him. (Provided, of course, he isn't a real criminal.)

16 posted on 05/03/2011 4:03:12 PM PDT by danielmryan
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To: antidisestablishment; blackdog
antidisestablishment: The triumph of statutory law over common law has outlawed the common man while the triumph of unaccountable regulatory authorities has degraded our system beyond recognition or repair.

blackdog: Millions of people make a living off of low level criminals. Those are the best kind. They pay their fines, won't piss in your squad car, don't throw feces at the jailer, cower in front of a judge, and will deplete every asset they have to stay out or get out of jail. Overcriminalization is downright profitable.

I'd re-post both of yours in full except it would be too redundant on such a small thread.

So let me just say you're both tied for Post of the Year (and not "collectively," either, LOL).

17 posted on 05/03/2011 4:10:11 PM PDT by Talisker (When you find a turtle on top of a fence post, you can be damn sure it didn't get there on its own.)
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To: Talisker; antidisestablishment; blackdog
antidisestablishment: The triumph of statutory law over common law has outlawed the common man while the triumph of unaccountable regulatory authorities has degraded our system beyond recognition or repair.

blackdog: Millions of people make a living off of low level criminals. Those are the best kind. They pay their fines, won't piss in your squad car, don't throw feces at the jailer, cower in front of a judge, and will deplete every asset they have to stay out or get out of jail. Overcriminalization is downright profitable.

Talisker: So let me just say you're both tied for Post of the Year (and not "collectively," either, LOL).

 Agreed on all counts. Great thread, though it didn't garner the attention it should.  There was once a time when I thought things might get better. I don't think that any more.

18 posted on 05/04/2011 6:39:14 AM PDT by zeugma (The only thing in the social security trust fund is your children and grandchildren's sweat.)
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To: zeugma; Talisker; danielmryan; blackdog

Unfortunately, wisdom comes with experience and at the expense of optimism. I understand the injustice and disparity only after having faced the dragon in his lair and, as blackdog said so eloquently, depleting every asset. I am still free and have my integrity, but that won’t get my life or my house back.

There was a day when these type of threads were the meat of FR...

Oh well, who’s on Idol?


19 posted on 05/04/2011 8:10:01 AM PDT by antidisestablishment (Our people perish through lack of wisdom, but they are content in their ignorance.)
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To: neverdem

Good post !


20 posted on 05/04/2011 8:19:09 AM PDT by antisocial (Texas SCV - Deo Vindice)
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To: antidisestablishment
"Oh well, who’s on Idol?"

Anesthesia for the masses. Entertainment in America serves it's scripted purpose.

21 posted on 05/04/2011 8:26:46 AM PDT by blackdog (The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop)
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To: blackdog

On the subject of selective enforcement my cab driving uncle points out that in San Francisco the Police would much rather arrest female prostitutes than male ones - for many of the reasons you mention - and others.

They will walk right past several young men in the cold SF evening without shirts on (code for “For Sale”) to hassle (and possibly shake down and/or arrest) a female streetwalker.


22 posted on 05/04/2011 8:32:31 AM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send the GOP to D.C. to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism.)
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To: allmendream
I used to do copier feld service back in the early 80's. Every Tuesday was Vice Squad Day in Philadelphia and they would bust all the hookers and process them on wednesday mornings. So many so, that at least once a month I had to go fix the copier in the roundhouse booking facility.

The whole thing had a carnival atmosphere. The hookers all knew the cops. The routine was well established. Each side had a scripted act to follow. The coffers would be flush with bail money by noon on Wednesday. The same hookers were right back out on the streets Wednesday night.

It was quite evident that the whole concept of law enforcement, justice, and punishment for law breaking had nothing to do with that. It was about activity, public relations, compensation, continued revenue streams, and job security.

23 posted on 05/04/2011 8:48:45 AM PDT by blackdog (The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop)
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To: antidisestablishment
Unfortunately, wisdom comes with experience and at the expense of optimism.

All too true; you have my sympathy. I don't know where those threads went myself; perhaps they were swamped by other complaints.

24 posted on 05/04/2011 4:04:17 PM PDT by danielmryan
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