Non-Criminal Criminality?

October 5th, 2010at 07:32am Posted by Eli

Apparently too many things are illegal:

Abner Schoenwetter, a Miami seafood importer, spent six years in prison, paid tens of thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees and is at risk of losing his home.

His crime? Agreeing to purchase lobster tails that federal prosecutors said violated harvest regulations — in Honduras.

Now Schoenwetter, 64, is a convicted felon with an ailing wife, no job or right to vote and three years of supervised release ahead of him. But he’s also a star witness for congressional efforts aimed at stemming what a growing number of legal experts and lawmakers consider “overcriminalization” — the federal government’s penchant for writing new laws to criminalize conduct that could be addressed with fines or other remedies.

“We must put an end to the notion that we need to prosecute every individual for every perceived offense,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who chairs a House Judiciary subcommittee that last week held its second hearing on overcriminalization. “We continue to lock up people for offenses that should not even require incarceration.”

Legal experts say there are more than 4,450 federal crimes on the books and as many as 300,000 federal regulations that can be enforced criminally. From 2000 to 2007, Congress created 452 entirely new crimes, said Brian Walsh, a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who focuses on overcriminalization.

So you can go to prison for importing dodgy lobster tails, but not for selling bogus securities that wipe out the economy?  Fascinating.

Also interesting how the same conservatives who are so gung ho about law and order for, say, drug or immigration offenses are the same people who back torture and assassination, warrantless wiretapping, lax gun laws, tort reform, deregulation, and generally coddling white-collar criminals (the free market will sort it out!).

The problem isn’t overcriminalization, it’s selective criminalization.

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Economy

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