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What will come of the House’s recent hearing on Reining in Overcriminalization?

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Bill of Rights (From public domain.)

By Jon Katz, a criminal defense lawyer and DWI/ DUI/ Drunk Driving lawyer fighting for the best possible results in the courts of Fairfax County, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland, and beyond.

On September 28, 2010, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on "Reining in Overcriminalization: Assessing the Problems, Proposing Solutions."

The speakers at the hearing were the following, including their written submissions: 

Panel I

Jim E. Lavine President National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Washington, DC

Robert "Bobby" Unser Personal Impact Victim Albuquerque, NM

Abner J. Schoenwetter Personal Impact Victim Pinecrest, FL

Panel II

Brian W. Walsh Senior Legal Research Fellow The Heritage Foundation Washington, DC

Stephen F. Smith Professor of Law University of Notre Dame Law School Notre Dame, IN

Ellen S. Podgor LeRoy Highbaugh Sr. Research Chair and Professor of Law Stetson University College of Law Gulfport, FL

Andrew Weissmann Partner Jenner & Block, LLP New York, NY

The ACLU’s Blog of Rights today details the hearing further, including witness Robert Unser’s testimony about being prosecuted and convicted for a felony for snowmobiling on forbidden federal property when he had no other choice but to drive through there to find safety from a snowstorm.

Society clearly is overcriminalized, both with crimes that should not be crimes (for instance, marijuana) and with poor police and prosecutorial judgment in arresting and prosecuting for such allegations as disorderly conduct and obstructing justice when the defendant was merely exercising his or her rightful liberty interests.

It can take a lot of proverbial blood, sweat and tears to reverse the overcriminalization in our society. However, we have no other choice than to do so.