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Saturday, July 13, 2013

U.S. House Judiciary Committee/Task Force on the Over-Criminalization of America Schedules Hearing #2

 
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee (Federal laws) has scheduled a second public meeting/hearing on the issue of the Over-Criminalization of America for July 19th at 9AM (EST) and the topic/subject is Mens Rea: The Need for a Meaningful Intent Requirement in Federal Criminal Law. You should be able to watch the hearing live or later in the day and the testimony of the invited speakers will be posted afterwards. 

The first House Judiciary meeting was held back on June 14, 2013; you can watch the video of the hearing and read the written testimony from the Chairman and all the invited speakers. 

Mens Rea is a point that I bring up regularly during the yearly Virginia General Assembly (State laws) sessions when new laws are being proposed and debated. In the last 4 years pointing out that the simple existence of a Registered Offender on their way “to” or “from” a reasonable location like their home, place of employment, public grocery store or corner gas station has stopped quite a few outlandish bills in their tracks which would have created new felonies in our state. The Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee seems to get this point more than the Virginia House Courts of Justice Committee, sadly. The benign acts of daily life, running errands and completing tasks should never result in a criminal charge in America. 

I don’t expect any changes to be made in the Federal criminal codes from this initiative in the viewing or sharing of child pornography images on-line or the extreme sentences with these two convictions, but there should be. 

Viewing and downloading free on-line images have resulted in prison sentences of a 100+ years whereas being the person who commits the abuse and produces the image can be a sentence of 5-15 years. In 2009 there was a case here in Virginia where a college professor spent 45 minutes on one website with child pornography and he was facing 140 years in prison.  

Murder and DUI that kills someone won't result in a 50 year sentence let alone 140 years, so why does viewing an image? 

The Federal code needs to be flipped when it comes to these specific child pornography viewing/possessing and downloading/sharing issues. 

If the U.S. Government isn’t going to shut down, crash or block these free websites (that anyone can accidently stumble into) from being on the world-wide-web but in some cases actually use them as bait for more convictions and more funding against citizens who had no physical contact with the victim in the image then the cycle of Over-Criminalization will just continue……..and the prisons and public registries will just keep expanding. 

Mary

Articles on the Formation of the U.S. House Over-Criminalization Taskforce:
 
Task Force Aims to Lighten Criminal Code: Bipartisan Congressional Initiative Targets Bloated Federal Provisions Cited by Critics for Driving Up Incarceration Rates, May 5, 2013

Congressional Task Force Tackles Bloated Criminal Code, May 19, 2013

Bipartisan task force seeks to tackle criminal code, May 28, 2013