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A bipartisan group of congressmen will introduce a bill to address the overfederalization of criminal law by counting the number of federal crimes, the Washington Examiner has learned.
The bipartisan bill, the Count the Crimes to Cut Act, would require the attorney general and other heads of agencies to produce a report for Congress totaling all federal criminal statutes and federal regulations with criminal penalties. For each crime, the report would need to provide details including the potential penalties for each offense and the number of prosecutions brought in the last 15 years for each offense.
The last effort to count the number of federal crimes took place in 1982, and the number of federal crimes is not currently known.
A one-pager for the bill said that over 80% of arrests nationwide “are for low-level, nonviolent crimes,” while less than 5% are for “violent offenses against property or persons.” The lawmakers said their bill would prevent unnecessary interactions with law enforcement officers and unnecessary incarceration.
Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican who is teaming up with Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and David Trone of Maryland, told the Washington Examiner: “Government exists to protect our liberty, not bury it alive under a pile of never-ending, unnecessary criminal laws.”
“Federal politicians and bureaucrats have created innumerable crimes, and the result is overburdened law enforcement and distrust in our justice system,” Roy said. “Almost anyone over the age of 18 in this country could be indicted for some kind of federal infraction at any moment without even realizing they’re breaking the law. It's time we finally count these crimes and get busy cutting a lot of them. I’m happy to introduce this bipartisan legislation alongside Reps. Jeffries and Trone.”
In a statement, Jeffries said: "The Count The Crimes To Cut Act will help reverse engineer the mass incarceration epidemic by identifying laws on the books that have been used and abused to lock many nonviolent offenders in prison for unwarranted amounts of time.”
He added: “I thank Rep. Roy for introducing this bipartisan legislation and all my colleagues in the Congress who are committed to making the promise of equal justice for all a reality."
The bill’s one-pager also cited John Baker, a retired law professor, who told the Wall Street Journal in 2011 that "there is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime."
Asked to give some examples of the overfederalization of criminal law, a spokesman for Roy pointed to the “A Crime a Day” Twitter account, which shares federal crimes. Recent examples of federal crimes include snorkeling within 300 yards of the Hoover Dam, boat racing in Yellowstone National Park, or killing a barn owl in Hawaii by shooting it, unless the bullets are nontoxic.
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Original Author: Kate Scanlon