Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Senator Hatch Pushes For Criminal Justice Reform That Includes ‘Mens Rea’

This afternoon, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, delivered an important speech on the Senate floor arguing that any criminal justice reform effort that is truly worthy of the name ought to include mens rea reform (also referred to as criminal intent).

I recently argued, as have other Heritage scholars, that there is a pressing need for such a reform and that this essential reform has been missing, at least so far, from the discussions that are currently ongoing on Capitol Hill about how to forge a bipartisan, bicameral compromise on meaningful criminal justice reform.

Hatch noted that there are nearly 5,000 federal criminal statutes and an estimated 300,000 criminal regulatory offenses – it is, in fact, a dirty little secret that nobody knows precisely how many there are – and that “[t]he upshot is that there are who-knows-how-many crimes on the books that the average person had no idea about and that criminalize conduct no reasonable person would think was wrong.” Many of these laws and regulations, Hatch added, “contain inadequate mens rea requirements, or even no mens rea requirements at all.”


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