Statutory law in America has expanded to the point that government’s primary activity is no longer to protect, preserve and defend our lives, liberty and propertywrites Bill Wilson,
but rather to stalk and entrap normal American citizens doing everyday things.
After identifying three federal offenses in the U.S. Constitution — treason, piracy and counterfeiting — the federal government left most matters of law enforcement to the states. By the time President Obama took office in 2009, however, there were more than 4,500 federal criminal statutes on the books.
“Too many people in Washington seem to think that the more laws Congress enacts, the better the job performance of the policymakers,” Lynch notes. “That’s twisted.”
Not long after Skyler Capo’s battle with Virginia game wardens, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese joined Lynch in testifying before a House committee exploring the problem of overcriminalization. “The federal criminal code is overly extensive,” Meese testified. “There are more laws than are needed or could possibly be enforced. There are too many redundant, superfluous and unnecessary criminal laws. They should be consolidated and/or eliminated.”
A compelling new study on overcriminalization by University of Tennessee professor Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit fame) shows that there are many solutions to this problem, including an end to prosecutorial immunity, “loser pays” legislation and a ban on plea bargains.
But more drastic measures may be required. Reformers should really begin by going through the entire body of federal criminal law — starting with all statutes that carry jail time — operating under the presumption that every statute should be eliminated unless it can be justified as essential. The federal government, especially, has no business duplicating state functions or applying criminal penalties to advance mere social engineering objectives.